Majority of British adults say tax avoidance is 'morally wrong'

New research has revealed that 56% of British adults believe that tax avoidance by multinational companies is morally wrong - and half of people think it should be made illegal.

The survey of attitudes to tax avoidance was commissioned by Christian Aid to coincide with the start of the Tax Justice Bus Tour. It shows public support for Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s view that such practices are ‘morally repugnant’. However, many of the 2,026 people questioned in the survey by ComRes don’t think these strong words are being matched with Government action.

Only four per cent of those polled thought tax avoidance by multinational corporations (MNCs) was ‘morally justifiable’, and only four per cent described such practices as ‘fair’.

Three quarters (74%) felt that David Cameron should be demanding international action to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, yet just two in five respondents to the survey (38%) believe the Government is genuine in their desire to combat tax avoidance.

There was also a clear view that companies should be more transparent, as 81 per cent of those polled believed MNCs' accounts should be more transparent and publicly available.  Some 79 per cent of people polled said it was too easy for MNCs in the UK to avoid paying tax.

Of those opposed to tax avoidance (those who think it is either immoral, should be illegal or is unfair), 67 per cent said one of their main concerns was that tax avoidance meant there was less money for governments to spend on public services, 33 per cent said that it meant governments had less money to tackle poverty, 28 per cent said that it damaged the reputation of all multinationals, and 25 per cent were concerned that it made developing countries more reliant on aid.

Some 75 per cent of people polled said MNCs enjoyed more lenient treatment from the tax collector than individuals received, and two thirds (65%) believed closing legal tax loopholes should be a greater international development priority for the British Government than funding infrastructure in developing countries.

The ComRes poll marks the launch of the Tax Justice Bus Tour of the UK and Ireland on 24 August, organised by both Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty, to highlight the damage that tax abuse causes to people in poverty, both in the UK and in the developing world.

Each year, tax dodging in the UK deprives the government of £35 billion - more than enough to cover the £30 billion being cut from the vital public services which people in poverty depend upon.

Christian Aid research estimates that tax dodging by some unscrupulous multinational companies costs developing countries at least $160 billion a year, far more than the total global aid budget – money which could go on health and education.

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