Read is a new entry this year
Ian Read, chief executive officer of Viagra-maker Pfizer,
makes the Global Tax 50 2015 as a representative of vocal
taxpayers that adopt a proactive attitude to taxation, standing
up to discuss tax policy issues openly and defending structures
in use where necessary.
As a response to increasing transparency and increasing
public interest, far too many corporate tax departments and
decision-makers in the c-suite opt to bury their heads in the
sand, staying below the parapet rather than engaging in
constructive debate and explaining how provisions in the tax
code impact taxpayer behaviour. But that is not Read's
The Scot spearheaded his company's $160 billion acquisition
of Irish-headquartered Allergan – the record-breaking
deal to create the world's largest drugmaker – in the
face of much criticism over the motivation for the move.
Political figures including US presidential hopeful Donald
Trump denounced the deal as either 'disgusting' or
'unpatriotic', but Read used the transaction to shed light on
the dire need for US tax reform.
"The US tax code is an urgent issue that we need to fix,"
says Read, who claimed during 2015 that US tax provisions left
Pfizer (and other US-based companies) attempting to compete
with foreign firms "with one hand tied behind our back".
Business groups piled in behind Read with statements of
support after he stuck his neck out, highlighting his
"Pfizer's merger deal is the latest, but not the last,
effort by a US-headquartered company to use a self-help
solution to compete in the global marketplace," says John
Engler, president of the Business Roundtable group of American
CEOs. "America's outdated tax system is once again pushing US
headquarters through the exit door."
Pfizer was among the companies (mostly from the
pharmaceutical sector, due to such companies being highly
mobile) that brought the inversion debate into centre stage
when it tabled a bid for UK-based AstraZeneca in 2014, leading
to a political and public backlash which ultimately –
together with AstraZeneca concerns over job losses –
stymied the deal. But rather than admitting defeat and waiting
for the US to update its tax code (which, let's face it, would
be a test of anybody's patience), Read sought another potential
target before pressing ahead with the Allergan deal in
Those on Capitol Hill trying to reform US tax legislation
should take note: if at first you don't succeed, try, try