Thursday, January 28, 2010

Timms: now consider "Automatic" and "CbC." And Justice.

Our last blog pointed to some comments by Stephen Timms, Britan's Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in Paris. Now here are some more specific comments of his, from his speech :

"This is about justice and fairness, as the NGOs have done such a good job of reminding us. But it is in the interests of developed countries too."

Quite so.

"I would like to see us take a hard look at automatic exchange of information and transparency over beneficial ownership. We need to build the evidence base for future action. We are still a long way from global automatic exchange of tax information, but that must be the destination we are heading towards."

Progress. We would like to think we've played an important role in it.

"The interest and controversy that Country-by-Country reporting has stirred up is not a bad gauge of how interesting this is as a tool. I now want to get beyond that debate and see whether this is a workable, useful tool for international transparency.

There should be transparency about where companies earn their profits and where they pay their tax. For people and companies to be part of the global economy they have to be willing to provide tax information.

Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Groups are already demanding that multinationals report on a country by country basis. But there is no internationally recognised framework for them to follow.

That is why, at the Second Conference on the Fight against International Tax Fraud and Evasion in Berlin last June, I argued Country-by-Country Reporting was an issue international policy makers needed to consider. And then, following the Anglo French Summit last July, the British Prime Minister and French President called on the OECD to examine it.

I have read the OECD’s initial work, and I fully support the recommendation that we develop multinational guidelines in this area. I now call on the OECD to look at the feasibility of introducing multinational guidelines on Country-by-Country Reporting through a full and open consultation with Governments, multinationals and Civil Society partners. And I hope everyone here will support that call.

The framework would provide a consistent basis for all multinationals to follow, and establish international best practice.

I would stress that work to develop such guidelines should not impinge on the IASB’s current work on extractive industries, which the UK fully supports. I understand that a discussion paper is due to be published in February and I look forward very much to reading it.

I believe that through these combined approaches, we can make decisive progress."

Yes, we'd agree that there has been more progress. TJN, and particularly its senior adviser Richard Murphy, have played the central role in bringing this onto the global agenda.

But now, this next bit is where we beg to differ.

"The approach to transfer pricing guidelines is linked. The OECD has clear guidelines on a comprehensive transfer pricing system. We have internationally agreed rules on transfer pricing that determine which country can tax what profits where a group operates in more than one country.

They reflect international consensus, prevent double taxation that would inhibit and distort trade and, they are widely understood."

International consensus? Not so fast. TJN is gearing up for a major transfer pricing project in the not too distant future. Transfer pricing - this is a big one.

And we've got a couple of other cards up our sleeve. Watch this space.


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