A sign of the growing discussion
in this area is the number of companies and countries that are
participating now in the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI), a multinational organisation aimed at
increasing tax transparency. Danish energy group DONG and
Korean company KOGAS, the largest LNG importer in the world,
have become the latest companies to support this international
who chairs the EITI, will be one of the most prominent speakers
at the Tax & Transparency Forum, to be held
at London's Grand Connaught Rooms hotel on
Short was a member of Parliament
for almost two decades, serving as Secretary of State for
International Development in Tony Blair's government between
1997 and 2003, before resigning over the Iraq war. In her new
role, she is ideally placed to discuss the latest developments
on bringing in country-by-country reporting to the extractive
industries. Mining companies are at the cliffface of debates
over transparency and Short will be joined on the panel by
Chris Lenon of Rio Tinto and
Stephen Blythe of BP, who
will provide a corporate perspective, as well as Richard
Murphy, chief proponent of country-by-country reporting.
It is not just the extractive
industries that have to pay attention to the rapidly developing
debates around tax transparency, however.
The financial crisis has changed
everything. Governments desperate for revenue are looking to
close loopholes and claw back as much money as they can from
taxpayers, through settlement or in court. Meanwhile, the
public mood has turned against avoidance as people take to the
street to demand companies pay their fare share of tax.
Development agencies such as
Christian Aid and ActionAid, which have long argued that poor
countries lose more through tax avoidance than they receive in
aid, are pushing for country-by-country reporting globally. The
NGOs argue that tax is not simply a legal issue, it is a moral
one, and it is not enough that taxpayers remain within the
letter of the law, rather they must adhere to its spirit. Most
multinationals remain sceptical about country-by-country
reporting because it could lead to higher tax bills, but where
it was once a niche issue demanded only by hardened activists,
now it is something companies cannot afford to ignore.
country-by-country reporting, information exchange and transfer
pricing rules are becoming increasingly important issues for
taxpayers to consider in terms of their investors, their
reputation and their exposure to risk. These issues will only
continue to grow in importance in the coming years and, as
such, will become an increasing concern for companies looking
more nervously at their bottom lines.
International Tax Review's
inaugural Tax & Transparency Forum brings
together the biggest names and most prominent voices on both
sides of the argument, including a keynote address by Pascal Saint-Amans.
As the new head of the OECD's
Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, Saint-Amans is
arguably the most important figure in global tax affairs.
Before taking up the job, he led the Global Forum on
Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes where
he gained extensive experience in bringing together corporates,
governments and NGOs to tackle tax haven secrecy.
Saint-Amans will introduce what
promises to be a day of robust but constructive debate between
taxpayers, authorities, advisers and NGOs. The tide towards tax
transparency is not for turning and these are issues companies
cannot afford to ignore.
For a full programme,
list of speakers and details of how to register, click