Will US-EU Trade Undermine Tax Justice?

This is a controversial question that has been brought up through a new study report. Based on information from the study, multinational companies in the U.K. could escape from paying millions of dollars following a secretive deal (labeled TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) between Europe and the United States that was brought up mid-February. The deal comes under the guise of free trade, but critics have warned that it would create a loophole through which major corporations would sue EU member states over measures such as windfall taxes on exceptional profits.

The deal is still an agreement that is currently being negotiated between the US and the EU. It has raised alarm bells especially amongst groups that advocate against unbridled free trade. While the stakeholders put forward the argument that it will bolster global trade, critics have stood their ground that the agreement may devastate both environmental and consumer protections while at the same time benefiting large international companies.

Published by the Transnational Institute in collaboration with Global Justice Now, the report warns that investor-protection embedded within its terms could put big companies beyond the reach of national taxation. Mr. Nick Dearden, a director at Global Justice, says that companies such as Google and Amazon are already paying minimal taxes in Europe and that this deal could even make this situation worse. Mr. Dearden has pointed out similar investor-protection in other deals that potentially prioritized corporate profitability over public welfare. A key example highlighted in the report was a dispute involving Mexico and several American agribusiness companies. This dispute reportedly happened in the early 2000s and centered on sales tax imposed on soft drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup by the Mexican government. The purpose of this tax was to reduce the increasing consumption of soft drinks. The tribunal tasked with addressing this dispute made a ruling that favored the investors. More so, Mexico was ordered to part with millions of dollars in dages. read more

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5 Strategies to Improve Management of Reputational Risk in International Tax

The world is increasingly a global village, with interconnected financial systems and massive data sharing among various governments and jurisdictions. In recent times, new tax reporting requirements and the increasing need for tax information exchange between nations have led to the disclosure of key details on the tax affairs of multinational companies. Boards of Directors, CEOs, CFOs and other leaders in multinational organizations are aware of the increasing reputational risk related to international tax. According to an EY report, over half of all top executives from major corporations who were included in a study said that oversight of controversy and task risks had increased over the last two years.

Indeed, over 80% of tax executives who were interviewed said that they regularly briefed the company’s CEO and CFO on risks related to taxation. Nearly half of tax professionals in large companies also regularly briefed audit committees. This is an interesting piece of information especially at a time when firms are creating more structured approaches to managing their public tax profile. Below are some of the top strategies that companies are using to promote transparency readiness and manage reputational task risks.

  • Monitoring the Changing Landscape – this involves actively studying and understanding the likelihood of increasing tax disclosure requirements. For instance, there might be an expansion of existing financial services reporting based on policy. Companies leverage their communications and PR departments to monitor interest in their tax profiles.
  • Assessing Readiness to Respond to Risk Threats – more international firms are developing board-agreed strategies and plans of action regarding readiness This involves regular evaluations to determine that the tax function has a clear input into the business strategy and that it’s consistently in the scope of all major transactions.
  • Enhancing Communication – establishing an effective communication strategy and approaches for reaching both internal and external stakeholders. At the internal level, the firm’s tax function should validate the approach to oversight functions such as risk officers, audit committees, public affairs, general counsels, and board of directors. The company’s leadership should be informed whenever there are any concerns related to taxation so that they can weigh them in among other risk factors.
  • Creating Comprehensive Tax Reports – there’s a smooth flow when tax and accounting merge to help assess business motivations behind existing tax structures in each area where the firm operates. These reports should create a total tax picture that scopes how the firm contributes to the economy and much money it pays in taxes. These reports are a great way to trigger discussions on global risk management, audit functions, tax resolution processes, tax performance processes, etc.
  • Embedding Reputational Tax Risks in Core Business Strategy – this is all about starting a dialog in order to allow the tax function to properly the reputational task risks related to ongoing business activities such acquisitions and mergers.
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