Perth-based SSE plc – formerly Scottish and Southern Energy – has become the first FTSE-100 company to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark for transparent tax reporting alongside pledges to avoid tax havens and aggressive tax avoidance schemes.
The company is now expected to make heavy use of this accolade as a powerful tool in its marketing strategy where consumer trust is high on the corporate agenda of Britain’s ‘Big Six’ utility companies.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, Chief Executive, said: “SSE firmly believes it has a responsibility to contribute to the societies in which it operates. Paying the appropriate amount of tax is core to this, and we are determined to abide by both the spirit and letter of the UK’s tax regulations.
Margaret Hodge, MP, Chairman of the Westminster parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, said: “Too often companies hide behind commercial confidentiality to disguise their activities, claiming that transparency about their tax affairs would damage their competitiveness. I don’t buy that, and the public don’t buy that.
“SSE clearly feels it has nothing to fear – and potentially a lot to gain – from responding to public demands for greater openness. There is no excuse for other companies not to do the same, and make this new standard in transparency the norm, not the exception.”
SSE is expected to use the ‘fair tax’ kitemark to re-gain trust in the eyes of consumers in its increasingly bitter battle with rivals EDF, E:ON and NPower following a string of mis-selling scandals in the industry.
Last year SSE was fined £10.5m by the regulator Ofgem for misleading customers with false statements about rivals gas and electricity charges and inaccurate information about its own tariffs.
That fine – the largest ever imposed on an energy supplier by Ofgem – sparked an exodus of customers from SSE. In July, the company admitted losing more than100,000 customers in the previous three months – despite freezing prices.
The haemorrhage of consumers has also triggered a multi-million retail advertising campaign by SSE pledging to hold prices down in future.
The Fair Tax Mark was launched earlier this year as the world’s first independent accreditation for companies that were open and transparent about their tax affairs.
Richard Murphy, Director of the Fair Tax Mark, said: “As was the case with ‘Fairtrade’ and other successful ethical standards, we anticipate that the accreditation of a major FTSE 100 company will prove to be a game-changer for the reporting of responsible tax planning in the UK.”