David Atkinson on supplier management and tax avoidance

We've featured David Atkinson here before, our friend and ex Rolls-Royce procurement executive and now procurement adviser, thinker, and educator. He has that unusual combination of real CPO type experience along with a very enquiring mind and the desire to really think about procurement, and that blend informs his writing very successfully. *

He's just published a really excellent new article on his Four Pillars website – you can read it here.  In it, he manages to go from the current debate in the UK around large firms using tax avoidance / evasion methods, to asymmetry in buyer / supplier relationships, but he makes that conceptual leap in a manner that is convincing and compelling.

He looks at the recent fuss around the big accounting firms putting staff into the UK Treasury (Finance Ministry) on loan or secondment. These staff may work there on tax schemes, which are based on getting revenue in for the government of course.

But then they often return to their firms, well-placed (you might think) to advise the clients of those firms how best to avoid paying the very taxes they have helped to introduce! Or might they even be tempted while they work for government not to support good ideas that could hurt their clients, or that could simplify tax matters?

"There’s the rub; the Big Four have surely zero interest in simplification as their client value proposition is being to navigate system complexity on the clients’ behalf.  Ongoing access to the inner workings of the Treasury is manifestly in their interest and remains a risk to the Treasury as long as they continue to offer such access".

We’ll come back and look more closely in part 2 at what Atkinson believes this situation suggests in terms of how we might look at supplier relationships in a more conventional procurement sense. In summary; how can we develop close working relationships with key suppliers without them gaining knowledge or information they might just use against us one day? There's been a lot of talk about "partnership" with suppliers, but when might allowing a supplier and their staff to get too close to our business rebound on us in a serious manner?

That’s a very interesting question, and not one I've seen considered very widely – so do read Atkinson's views now.  Here’s the link again. 

*I was going to make a joke about his articles being a lot better than Newcastle, David’s favourite football team, who lost 6-0 at the weekend. But then my team, Sunderland, who are Newcastle’s greatest  local rivals, , lost 6-1 on Monday so I think I’ll leave it.


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