As I mentioned in my previous post I attended a conference at the Said Business School University of Oxford yesterday about Taxing Multinationals:the International Allocation of the Tax Base. It seemed very strange to be a participant along with people from the London School of Economics, PwC, Schroders and the CBI to name a few!
Much of what was said was new to me (not surprisingly I don’t act for many multinationals) and some of it went completely over my head!
One thing which did strike me, however, was that no matter how much bad publicity the multinationals receive, over their tax avoidance schemes, it appears to have not made one iota of difference to their attitudes.
During the first discussion session John Connors, Vodafone’s Head of Tax, asked what the OECD, the European Union and the United Nations would do to help stop the adverse publicity the multinationals continue to receive over transactions which were perfectly legal and what they would do to help stop the morality of the multinationals’ tax bills being questioned in the press.
Two thoughts struck me immediately
- If I was Head of Tax at Vodaphone I would be keeping very, very quiet! and
- Here is yet another multinational refusing to discuss the issues raised by the press purely to maintain the status quo.
I’m fairly certain that Mr Connors will not be happy with some of the answers he received!
Michael Lennard, Chief of International Tax Cooperation and Trade at the United Nations, asked if the correct amount of tax had been paid and said that “morality is part of the debate”.
Pascal Saint-Amans, Director, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, OECD, invited the multinationals to join the debate and engage in changing the rules and pointed out that “some in the business community are in denial“.
Philip Kermode, Director, Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission told us “We will get there”.
I just hope that all three organisations have people who will stand up against the likes of John Connors to make sure things do change. Being nice to multinationals will achieve nothing. The rules (and laws) will have to be changed despite the protestations of the companies.