AN INVESTMENT firm that manages assets worth £1.2 billion and belonging to churches and charities has become the first Christian business to receive the Fair Tax Mark.
The firm, Epworth Investment Management, which is owned by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church, has now been independently certified as paying its full business taxes “in the right place, at the right time”, a statement from the Fair Tax Mark scheme announced.
The programme was created in 2014 to highlight companies that ensure that they always pay the right amount of corporation tax; it seeks to encourage less tax avoidance and more corporate responsibility.
So far, about 50 businesses have been certified, including high-street brands such as Timpson, and Richer Sounds, as well as larger FTSE100 firms, including the energy giant SSE.
The chief executive of Epworth, David Palmer, said that responsible investing was “at the heart of what we do” as a company. “I am pleased to say Epworth Investment Management has taken all of the necessary steps to ensure it is responsible and transparent on tax.
“We will not stop there, however. We are committed to the Fair Tax Mark, and shall encourage our investee companies to secure their certification as well.”
Epworth is also the first investment firm to receive the Fair Tax Mark, a milestone hailed by the campaign’s chief executive, Paul Monaghan. “They are walking the talk and have thrown the gauntlet down to other asset managers, in terms of both operational conduct and securing change among investors.
“Institutional investors and asset managers have, to date, been somewhat cautious on the issue of tax justice, in comparison with their vigorous work in the areas of climate change and human rights.”
The director of Church Action for Tax Justice, Dr Justin Thacker, said that Epworth had honoured its Methodist roots by signing up to the Fair Tax Mark, and shown that it was possible and profitable to match Christian ethics with sound investment practices.
Although only a handful of companies have joined the campaign so far, polling commissioned by the Fair Tax Mark found that 79 per cent of respondents would rather shop with a business that could prove that it was paying its fair share of tax. A similar figure (82 per cent) said that firms that had received government support during the pandemic should have to renounce tax avoidance also.
A spokesman for the Church Commissioners said that its approach to tax was governed by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group’s policy, which recommends that tax ethics should be a subject for investor engagement only when “it appears that a company’s approach is blatantly aggressive or abusive.”