The 2015 big Business Survey is the first piece of research based on interviews with these businesses since HMRC’s expanded big Business Directorate began operating in 2014, although the attitudes of the businesses involved own previously been obtained through separate surveys.

Businesses surveyed as portion of the research were significantly less likely to respond that they were “always unseal to ways to legally reduce” their tax payments; down to 65% from 74% of the equivalent businesses surveyed in 2014. The percentage that felt tax avoidance was “acceptable” fell from 26% to 21% over the period covered by the survey; while the number of businesses keen to reduce their tax liabilities by “recognising profits in more favourable tax regimes” fell from 12% to 8%.

“Results in this area suggested a shift to a more compliant mind-set amongst big businesses in terms of tax planning,” HMRC said in its report on the results.

Businesses were most likely to cite compliance with legislation and ensuring that their tax planning decisions were commercially viable, with 36% and 21% of respondents respectively, when asked what the most influential factors were on their tax planning decision making, according to the report.

Tax expert Heather Self of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the attitudes demonstrated by survey respondents appeared to be at odds with the public’s perceptions of tax avoidance, particularly following this week’s findings by the European Commission in relation to Apple’s tax affairs in Ireland.

The research findings also backed up figures previously obtained by Pinsent Masons, which indicated that HMRC was increasingly concentrating on technical issues following an improvement in tax compliance by big businesses, she said. These cases tended to be more complex, seize longer to resolve and yield lower amounts, and were also more likely to be successfully challenged at a tribunal, she said.

The big Business Directorate was formed in April 2014 to oversee the tax affairs of the UK’s 2,100 largest and most complex businesses. It replaced the big Business Service, which performed a similar role in relation to the 770 largest and most complex businesses.

The UK government has taken several steps in recent months to improve the tax compliance of the UK’s largest businesses. It consulted on a number of measures focused on ‘behavioural vary’ following the 2015 Summer Budget, including plans to force entire big companies to publish the details of their tax ‘strategy’ and the creation of a fresh ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’ on taxation for big businesses. The tax strategy publication requirement is due to apply to the first full financial year subsequent the 2016 Finance Bill obtains Royal Assent.

The number of big businesses indicating that they were “confident” that they knew what HMRC would challenge as tax avoidance fell over the survey period, from 93% of equivalent businesses in 2014 to 88% in 2015, according to the report. Of the surveyed businesses, 77% said that they had discussed specific tax issues with HMRC as they arose atthesametime the tax year and 62% said that they had shared information with HMRC priorto committing to particular transactions.