With tax transparency and reporting being among the hottest issues in tax today and the government now issuing a consultation document with proposals to introduce a legislative requirement that large businesses must publish their tax strategy as it relates to or affects UK taxation, KPMG in the UK has published “Developing a common framework for disclosing tax information” which sets out a potential framework for companies to consider when publishing tax information. It is the result of a series of discussions KPMG has held with a number of leading UK-headquartered multi-national groups on this issue.
Commenting on the discussion document, Jane McCormick, Senior Tax Partner at KPMG in the UK, said: “Tax transparency and reporting are among the hottest issues in tax today. The debate around greater tax transparency by companies is becoming increasingly prominent with a growing number of calls from various parts of civil society for companies to be transparent about where they operate around the globe, where they make their profits, where they pay their taxes and how much tax they pay.
“The direction of travel in respect of tax transparency is clear – there will be increased disclosure requirements with more information becoming public. Indeed the UK government just recently announced proposals to introduce a legislative requirement that large businesses must publish their tax strategy as part of its consultation on large business tax compliance in which transparency is a key element.
“But with several different reporting regimes existing side by side and various stakeholder groups looking for varying forms of disclosure, there is a real challenge for companies in how they manage this.”
The view at KPMG in the UK is that British companies should engage in an open and constructive debate on tax transparency to establish what content can, and might, be usefully produced to meet the demands of the different stakeholder groups while balancing the cost to business. However, a prescriptive ‘one size fits all approach’ is not the right way to proceed with transparency, the firm believes.
KPMG discusses whether a standard approach to present tax data might be possible. It identifies some issues with simply making the soon to be mandatory OECD Country by Country Reporting template public and considers whether accounting rules could be changed to include country by country reporting, acknowledging pros and cons of either approach.
Common themes which could provide a framework for tax disclosures
“Developing a common framework for disclosing tax information” summarises a number of common themes which arose in the course of discussions with multi-nationals which might form a platform or framework for disclosing tax information as follows:
The KPMG document notes that it is key that no information should be disclosed if this would either impact an organisation’s competitive position or be otherwise commercially sensitive. It also acknowledges that the focus and emphasis on disclosures may be different depending on the nature of a particular business such as the sector in which it operates.
Chris Morgan, Head of Tax Policy at KPMG in the UK explained: “The framework we have developed does not attempt to answer all of the questions an organisation may have, nor does it put forward a definitive template for disclosing tax information. What it aims to do is to prompt companies to evaluate where they are now in the overall tax transparency debate and to consider how they might approach this area in the future.
“Our firm opinion is that transparency is an essential pillar in restoring trust between businesses and other members of civil society on tax issues. We recommend that UK companies engage proactively with all stakeholders in the debate.”
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Margot Cowhig, KPMG Corporate Communications
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Jess Liebmann, KPMG Corporate Communications
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KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 12,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a turnover of £1.9 billion in the year ended September 2014. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 162,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.
This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.