Strategizing International Tax Best Practices – by Keith Brockman

UN: Corp. tax responsibility

Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), a UN sponsored initiative, published a report entitled “Engagement Guidance on Corporate Tax Responsibility.”  The guidance is investor oriented addressing the conduct of corporate tax responsibility, disclosure, transparency and good tax risk governance.  Therefore, this report is a valuable reference to understand today’s trend of tax disclosure and transparency from an investor’s perspective, and how multinationals may be queried in the new world of international tax transparency.

A link is attached for reference:

http://2xjmlj8428u1a2k5o34l1m71.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/PRI_Tax-Guidance-2015.pdf

Key points:

  • Earnings that rely on tax planning vs. economic activity are vulnerable to tax regulatory changes, earnings risk via strategies are increasing, and some Boards may be unaware of the effect that incentives have on tax planning.
  • Corporate sustainability officers should understand tax decisions and their impact on financial results and stakeholders, with alignment between tax strategies and sustainability commitments.
  • ” Companies should be able to defend how they allocate profit to each country both to tax authorities and the general public to avoid reputational risk and investor backlash.”
  • Before engaging with companies on tax practices, investors should understand various strategies, including IP transfers, financing, marketing service arrangements, principal structures, tax havens, shell companies and tax incentives, that are summarily explained. 
  • A step plan to engage companies:
    • Identify red flags, including a formula to measure tax gap
    • Questions for Senior Management/Board re: tax policy, tax governance, managing tax-related risk, effective tax rate, tax planning strategies including structure and IP rights, and country-by-country (CbC) reporting.  

Appendices are provided for additional reference of the OECD BEPS project, examples of good tax practices re: disclosures, summary of findings from discussions with Heads of Tax in eight multinational organisations, and a Glossary / Resources.

The report, in providing formulas and explanations, includes educational material for the investor community re: tax strategies and governance, while also providing examples of tax queries and good tax governance by many multinationals.

Best Practices:

The report should be used as a metric to assess readiness and alignment for these important topics that may be raised by stakeholders, both internal and external.  To the extent such questions have not been a primary focus, this report is an impetus to raise the priority threshold in addressing tax policies, strategies and governance in a very transparent world.  Additionally, it is also worthy to review the names of multinationals cited in the report for awareness and recognition.

 

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