A bit nervous about this post.....Given the RSA's political independence and my own moderate beliefs I hesitate before what seem like more anti-capitalist sentiment. Also, I was until recently a happy customer of Starbucks and the company funded the RSA Coffeehouse Challenge a few years ago.
But still, despite all this, I am inspired to write not only by this story in the Independent, but also by my Moral Maze colleague Claire Fox telling me last night that a friend of hers, a huge supporter of free enterprise, has decided to boycott certain companies because their tax dodging activity is profoundly anti-competitive.
So, while I hope to be writing a longer, more seemly, post later today, for now I can't resist sharing a perfectly formed espresso of a policy idea:
The fair tax social impact bond:
The bond works on the basis that the Government commits to paying the organisation which delivers the promised outcome a proportion - say fifteen percent - of the net income generated. These are incredibly advantageous terms for HMG.
The outcome is a commitment by Starbucks to pay a reasonable level of corporation tax on their UK profits, preferably backdated for at least some of the previous fifteen years where they have paid none.
The delivery model will be to pay unemployed people the living wage to organise the distribution of leaflets outside Starbucks' stores. The leaflets will encourage potential customers to boycott the stores until Starbucks pay fair tax. The leaflets will also provide the public with directions to the nearest fair tax paying coffee shop.
Targeting Starbucks' 500 largest stores, the bond would be based on the assumption that the global giant will - for entirely commercial reasons - buckle within two weeks of the start of a concerted campaign.
The bond would provide socially rewarding work for unemployed people, would invigorate city and town centres with lively political debate and would reap valuable millions of pounds for the exchequer. The bond would be delivered by a combination of paid organisers and volunteers, thus exemplifying the spirit of the Big Society. Also, because the other high profile tax dodgers - Google, Amazon, EBay - would suspect they are next, the campaign could have a major multiplier effect.
So all we need now is for the Government to provide a framework contract for the social impact bond and for an investor who believes in fair contributions and fair markets to finance the bond.
I will take the level of retweeting to be an indication of support for my idea.