Following the Panama Papers leak ActionAid, together with 40 other NGOs, has written to the President of the European Union calling for stronger action on tax havens.
Current EU proposals fall short of what is needed to allow proper scrutiny of the taxes and profits multinational companies are registering in tax havens.
ActionAid is calling for EU proposals for mandatory tax reporting by multinationals to cover taxes paid in countries outside the EU, including tax havens. This would allow the public, journalists and civil society to fully scrutinise the behaviour of companies and expose the use of tax havens in tax dodging.
Current proposals, published on 21 March, would require multinational companies with a turnover greater than €750 million to publish profits and taxes paid on a country-by-country basis for countries within the EU. However, data for countries outside the EU would be published as a single consolidated figure, making it impossible to know what taxes and profits are being registered in tax havens like Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
ActionAid is calling for the EU proposal to be revised and improved, so that tax and profit data for multinationals is made publicly available on a country-by-country basis for countries outside the EU. The reporting threshold should also be reduced, so that it is not only the very largest companies who have to publish this information. This would allow citizens in rich and poor countries alike to know how much tax the companies they work for, shop from or invest in are paying.
Anders Dahlbeck, ActionAid Tax Policy Adviser, said:
“Tax havens, including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, are being systematically used to hide wealth and avoid taxes. Some of the poorest countries in the world are being deprived of desperately needed tax revenue because the international tax system is unfit for purpose.
“The EU must beef up its tax and profit reporting proposals to ensure that the public, journalists and campaigners can scrutinise the tax affairs of multinational companies, some of which are avoiding tax on an industrial scale. The Prime Minister should support transparent tax reporting as a vital step in lifting the veil of secrecy which currently shrouds tax havens.”
President of the European Commission
200, Rue de la Loi
5 April, 2016
Commission proposal on disclosure of income tax information by certain multinational corporations
Dear President Juncker,
We, the undersigned civil society organisations and trade unions, are writing to you to express our concern regarding the European Commission’s upcoming proposal on disclosure of income tax information by multinational corporations. We urge you to move from the intra-EU reporting that the leaked draft would deliver to actual public country-by-country reporting. Only by doing so will the proposal deliver real transparency on profits made and taxes paid by multinationals.
The draft proposal published in the media on 21 March contains several worrying elements. Firstly, the obligation for multinationals to report on a country-by-country basis only inside the EU, while publishing aggregated data from all third countries, would make this proposal unfit for purpose.
Public country-by-country reporting should provide the public with key information on the activities of multinationals, including the taxes paid on profits made in each country in which they operate. By only publishing country-by-country data from EU countries, the proposal as leaked would effectively allow multinationals to continue shifting their profits out of the EU while still keeping citizens in the dark. It would also make the measure useless for developing countries as they would not be able to get any country-specific information. Not only does this undermine any chances of collecting adequate public revenues, it would also be contrary to the EU’s commitment to policy coherence for development.
Secondly, setting the threshold for companies covered by the reporting requirement at €750 million in annual consolidated turnover would, according to the OECD’s estimates, exclude 85-90 per cent of multinationals from the reporting requirement. The proposal on public country-by-country reporting put forward by the European Parliament in the Shareholders’ Rights Directive, in accordance with the EU’s own existing definition of “large undertakings”, covers all large companies that meet two out of three criteria, including a threshold of €40 million in turnover. A lower threshold would cover more companies, providing more data on the activities of multinationals and ensuring a more level playing field.
Thirdly, the disclosure elements should give a clear picture of whether taxes are paid where the profits are generated. The Commission’s current proposal leaves out many important elements – such as assets, sales and a full list of subsidiaries – contrary to the templates developed by the OECD under BEPS Action 13 and the European Parliament in the Shareholders’ Rights Directive.
Under your leadership, the European Commission has repeatedly stated its support for transparency as well as its commitment to the fight against tax avoidance. As corporate tax scandals continue to unfold, it is crucial that the Commission seizes this opportunity to restore public trust in our tax systems and to take concrete steps to fight extreme inequality and poverty both at home and in developing countries.
We therefore urge you to make sure the final proposal on public country-by-country reporting that the European Commission will present in April takes the above mentioned issues into account in order for it to be an effective tool that delivers the transparency urgently needed in the fight against corporate tax avoidance and corruption.
Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
Centre national de coopération au développement,
11.11.11 — Koepel van de Vlaamse Noord Zuidbeweging
Christian Aid Ireland
Debt and Development Coalition Ireland
Diakonia Ekvilib Institute
European Trade Union Confederation
European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad)
European Public Service Union
Fair Tax Mark
Financial Transparency Coalition
French Platform on Tax Havens
Global Policy Forum
Justice et Paix
Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz für internationale Entwicklung und Mission
Methodist Tax Justice Network UK
Netzwerk Steuergerechtigkeit Observatoire Citoyen pour la Transparence Financière Internationale
Réseau Foi et Justice Afrique Europe
Tax Research UK
Tax Justice Network
Tax Justice Network – Norway
Transparency International EU
Transparency International France
War on Want
Za Zemiata – Friends of the Earth Bulgaria