Progress on corporate tax transparency?

CEPS recently collaborated with the IE Business School to organise a workshop on corporate tax transparency. The event, held September 24th at CEPS, was opened by Elena Herrero-Beaumont, Director of the International Executive Programme of Global and Corporate Affairs, who emphasised the debate’s timeliness and topicality. Karel Lannoo, CEPS CEO, pointed out that not much has been achieved on this front at the EU level.

Philippe Lamberts, MEP, and member of the Special Committee on Tax Rulings, agreed that little progress is being made. In his view, this is due to the fact that national governments in the EU are excessively close to businesses, and are not prepared to cede their (illusory) fiscal sovereignty. The Belgian parliamentarian called for a mandatory system to be introduced and advocated the use of market access as an instrument to induce disclosure from extra-EU corporations.

Carl Dolan, Head of Transparency International Brussels, mentioned that in the past four years the average score for companies in TI’s surveys of financial transparency was a meagre 6%. He argued that companies have three incentives to improve their country-level tax disclosure: regaining the public’s trust, raising capital and ceasing to harm developing countries through tax abuse.

VNO-NCW’s Jeroen Lammers, representing BusinessEurope, disagreed with the view that there was no progress with regard to tax transparency, pointing in particular to forthcoming guidelines to be issued by the OECD. He maintained that businesses stand to gain from transparency, especially if applied to taxation policies, as this would give companies legal certainty. Jerónimo Payán, EMEA Tax Director for Telefónica, concurred that enterprises are not opposed to increased tax transparency and support the European Commission’s work to achieve more openness. The Spanish lawyer explained how his company introduced compulsory divulgence of information to the Board of Directors, as well as compliance standards.