CSR and Sustainability

Useful overview on the reputation and regulatory risks of aggressive tax avoidance

We all like a short, useful summary of complex issues.

At least I do, given social media and smartphones, twatter etc, has affected my attention span somewhat. (Hang on, who are you again?)

So here is a short, useful summary of the tax debate, as viewed by consultants Global Counsel.

A few snippets for your delectation and delight:

They’re coming to get you, kind of…

“Preliminary judgements published by the European Commission last week into corporate tax practices in Ireland and Luxembourg could result in huge retrospective bills for Apple and Fiat Finance and Trade (FFT). More significantly, the judgements illustrate how the landscape for corporate taxation is changing rapidly in Europe.”

“…The Commission investigations concern advance tax agreements, which are supposed to give individual companies clarity on how their corporate tax will be calculated. The Commission alleges that in the Apple and FFT cases the agreements entered into have instead allowed improper transfer pricing, distorting the value of transactions between subsidiaries of the same group, and enabling profits to be diverted to countries with lower tax rates.”

“…Both cases will now proceed to full investigations, which could take up to a year. If the findings are confirmed then the Commission could require the authorities in each country to retrieve under-paid taxes going back ten years. For both companies this would be embarrassing and expensive, although it would not ultimately threaten their financial position.”

“…The Commission is not acting in isolation. Even though the nominal target is unfair competition, the real target is aggressive tax avoidance. Multiple fronts are opening up against such practices and not only in Brussels. These include actions by individual countries. Last week the UK Chancellor George Osborne told his party conference that he will put an end to abuse of the tax system by those companies that go to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to pay little or no taxes. He singled out technology companies as a particular concern and the press has dubbed his initiative as the ‘Google tax’.”

“…The Commission’s investigations into FFT and Apple takes the EU state aid policy into new territory, giving the Commission a locus on tax that it has not enjoyed before. Other investigations are in the pipeline. These include an investigation into the tax treatment of Starbucks by the Netherlands, which is already underway, and investigations into practices in Gibraltar and Luxembourg’s treatment of Amazon, which have only just been announced.”

More on all this, here.

Global Counsel’s chairman, Lord Mandelson, also former EU trade commissioner, will be speaking at this event on October 28 in London, about how trade policy can and should be adapted to meet growing demands for sustainability.

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