CICTAR is collaborating in a new investor initiative on Responsible Corporate Tax in collaboration with PIRC. This collaboration builds on previous CICTAR engagements with global investors to support greater transparency on corporate tax practices and payments.
Responsible tax is emerging as a vital sustainability issue for investors. The need for corporate tax revenue to help fund public health and other essential government services is recognised now more than ever in the wake of the ongoing global pandemic. Aggressive corporate tax avoidance cost hundreds of billions in lost revenues each year from government budgets. It exacerbates existing inequalities, undermines broad-based economic growth, and creates unnecessary specific and systemic risks for investors.
Globally, there is growing government and investor momentum to reform the global taxation system so that it is fit-for-purpose and will ensure that corporations fairly contribute in countries where profits are genuinely earned. These developments in global tax reform will increase risks for corporations operating at the limits of the law. Ensuring multinationals pay a fair share levels the playing field for small businesses and companies that do abide by both the letter and spirit of the law.
Investor understanding of a company’s relative risk profile and appetite is hampered by a lack of transparency.
The initiative will facilitate active engagement with corporations in sectors with a history of aggressive tax avoidance, as well as sectors with significant exposure to government contracts and dependent on healthy tax revenue for growth.
PIRC and CICTAR will be calling on corporations in these sectors to adopt and report using the recent GRI Tax Standard, including the provision of country-by-country reporting of taxes and other financial information. The GRI Tax Standard is a globally recognized baseline for improved tax transparency. It provides an important foundation to increase transparency, reduce compliance risks, advance broader global tax reforms and level the playing field for all businesses.
As the first action in this initiative, PIRC is supporting the filing of a shareholder proposal at Amazon.com, Inc., calling on the company to disclose global tax practices and risks to investors.
Currently, Amazon does not disclose revenues, profits or tax payments in non-US markets, challenging investors’ ability to evaluate the risks of taxation reforms, or whether Amazon is engaged in responsible tax practices that ensure long term value creation. Amazon’s approach to taxation has been repeatedly challenged by tax authorities globally. Exposure of Amazon’s aggressive tax avoidance has helped drive global and national tax reforms. Research by the Fair Tax Mark found that Amazon had the poorest tax conduct amongst the world’s largest tech companies. In 2020, Amazon was singled out by President Biden as having paid no federal corporate income tax in the US.
Investors need greater transparency to evaluate the sustainability of Amazon’s growth. An over reliance on artificial structures to reduce tax obligations in countries around the world creates risks for shareholders and undermines competition for companies that act responsibly.
For more information, contact Katie Hepworth, Responsible Tax Lead, PIRC.