This content is from: Direct Tax

Diversity and inclusion: Building a strong tax foundation

Keith Brockman explains why diversity and inclusion are key pillars to a strong tax function.

The personal elements of diversity and inclusion form important talent foundations to meet the international demands of complex international taxation methodologies. They run parallel to the OECD and the UN efforts to build an inclusive framework, representing countries around the world.

The OECD and the UN are continually reaching out to form an inclusive framework to create principled actions to apply globally, while learning of unknown complexities as new countries join the international framework. Similarly, tax professionals and teams are positioned to learn from their peer network internally and externally about the internal demands placed upon local businesses, practical restrictions to repatriate cash and pay inter-company obligations, as well as social obligations, responsibilities and contributions.

The element of diversity creates a natural team dynamic that include different social elements, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. This dynamic forms the basis that provides unlimited opportunities for each individual to become a leader in the profession.

The individual leadership attributes each contain an element of diversity from around the world, resulting in team actions and principles that may represent simple, complex, and sometimes out-of-the-box ideas that are prerequisites to match the new international world of taxation that includes digitally-sourced taxation and challenges to the arm's-length principle – a standard that is now 85 years old.


Innovation in technology and new systems create new demands for tax professionals with diverse backgrounds to share best practices, adopt global principles and enact ways of working. Local and regional tax representatives of multinational corporations are becoming more common to address language needs, audit practices, support for local business units, interpretation and execution of local and regional laws. These teams are diverse in nature, in both understanding headquarter and local laws, while also complementing collaborative approaches for planning and business synergies.

The element of diversity is mutually paired with the concept of inclusion to form win-win results. Diversity forms a very strong dynamic from which to form a collaborative team with individual task champions, collaborative actions and reasoned conclusions taking into account different views and thoughts, while forming the best conclusion.

The art of inclusion combines recognition of local and regional cultures, which can be diametrically different than other regions. For example, tax professionals from some countries may reflect a more introverted approach to problems, requiring more time to form a reasoned expression of thought. Conversely, other members will tend to be more extroverted and willing to share their opinion spontaneously in a meeting.

Accordingly, certain team members may benefit from a pre-meeting personal discussion of the topics or pre-read, while the extroverts will not need this additional time.

However, all members are to be included in the discussion, although the approach may require differing leadership styles to take advantage of the diversity in the group.

Inclusion also signifies interaction with different levels and functions within an organisation, to the extent possible. Tax professionals should represent teams that address potential issues increasing their field of knowledge, while learning to identify, document and execute several possible sources of action.

Cultural and leadership training should be a primary element of a tax professional's toolkit to amplify benefits from diversity and inclusion. External and/or internal resources may be used to provide such training globally, while also applying the concepts to real-time issues being addressed.

Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of a tax team and a tax professional's international peer network in forming a solid foundation. Discussion of these topics, and differences thereto, should form a recurring action and thought process. The actions to practice such learnings should be exercised regularly to further promote the learnings and opportunities that await.

Keith Brockman is the VP Global Tax at Manitowoc Foodservice. His previous role was international tax director at Mars. He is also a lecturer, frequent speaker and the author of the Strategizing Multinational Tax Risks blog. In his regular ITR column he provides a practical analysis of some of the more challenging recent developments for corporate taxpayers, looking at how in-house professionals can mitigate new risks and identify effective solutions in an evolving environment.

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