Handling client data is top of the public’s concerns about business practice

Handling client data
Tuesday 27 September 2016 - 10:45

The biggest issues the public worry about when making decisions on whom to do business with have been revealed by AAT.

Most important to the public, according to a survey of 2,000 UK adults, is that businesses are careful with sensitive client data, cited by 44% of those questioned. Famous recent data breaches have dominated news headlines such as the recent Yahoo hack.

With governments around the world trying to get to grips with multinational corporations paying taxes in different countries, having businesses not engaging in aggressive tax avoidance was the second most important issue to the public, stated by 42%. 

  What’s most important when choosing which businesses to engage with?  
1. Business is careful with sensitive client data 44%
2. Business does not engage in aggressive tax avoidance 42%
3. Business has strict ethical code about their supply chain 39%
4. Business displays maximum transparency with regards to company accounts 35%
5. Business is environmentally conscious 31%
6. Business invests in employee training 29%
7. Business declares conflicts of interest 21%
8. Business vocally supports social causes 18%
9. Business is family friendly 16%
10. Business regularly donates to charities 16%

AAT also asked members of the public what measures they want to see brought in to discourage aggressive tax avoidance. The top response was to compile and publish a ‘blacklist’ of companies that engage in aggressive tax avoidance, said by 39% of respondents.

  Strategies which could do the most to discourage aggressive tax avoidance  
1. Compiling and publishing a ‘blacklist’ of companies that engage in aggressive tax avoidance 39%
2. Greater awareness for the public of what tax avoidance strategies companies use 13%
3. Greater standardisation of published company accounts 12%
4. Greater accounting transparency for businesses’ foreign dealings and accounts 11%

How accountants can help

Helping to curb aggressive tax avoidance is something which often falls to accountants to advise companies about. AAT has compiled a white paper, ‘Accounting for Good’, to demonstrate how accountants can help play their part to reduce aggressive tax avoidance, and close the tax gap between the amounts of taxes collected by HMRC and the amount of taxes owed. This tax gap currently stands at between £33 and £34 billion and has remained at this level in pound terms since 2009-2010. Figures from HMRC show that small businesses are responsible for the majority of the tax gap, at around £16.5bn. Small business owners should look to accountants or bookkeepers to help them ensure they are paying the right amount of tax due and help them maintain a positive reputation.

Rob Alder, AAT Head of Business Development says: “All businesses are reliant on their good reputation in order to survive and thrive, and this research shows the things businesses need to do to strengthen their reputation. The public is aggrieved by aggressive tax avoidance, a topic which people have strong views on. We are increasingly seeing companies actively promoting their commitment to fair tax as a marketing tool because they know that it serves their economic interests in the long run, with customers being loyal to businesses they perceive to act fairly and in the public interest.”

“Having a strong ethical code and not engaging in aggressive tax avoidance can result in increased profits for businesses, as well as a reduction in the tax gap because consumers are displaying an appetite for engaging with companies who are good corporate citizens. Accountants have a key role in showing businesses how they will benefit from this.”