Big business opposed to CBCR? Maybe not so much

September 9th, 2015

There’s a perception that big business is strongly opposed to country by country reporting (CBCR) requirements. But a new survey funded by the FTC and carried out by CoCom member Christian Aid has revealed that there’s far less opposition than one might think. Public country by country reporting calls for companies to make basic information about their finances and operations (profits, revenues, taxes paid, employees, etc.) for each country they operate in available to the public. CBCR reporting would serve as a vital tool to increase transparency and help work towards the elimination of tax evasion and aggressive profit shifting.

The results of the survey reveal 4 important conclusions:

  1. Only a minority of companies are clearly and unequivocally opposed to CBCR
  2. Most companies would not object strongly to CBCR legislation
  3. Companies appear to be less concerned about public disclosure of sensitive information if this is also required of similar companies
  4. Companies appear more concerned about the consequences if disclosures were made by them voluntarily

Christian Aid received 52 responses from FTSE100 companies. When asked if the company would voluntarily publish CBC reports, only a minority (17%) said they were opposed to doing so. When asked if the company would object to legally having to submit CBC reports, the majority (31%) said they would comply with any new legal requirement. Finally, an overwhelming amount of companies (52%) stated their strong commitment to tax transparency.

Of course, the concerns of these companies have to be taken into consideration when trying to implement a policy that works. The concerns of these companies include: misinterpretation of information, business model concerns, contracts that forbid disclosure, disclosure of very specific information, costs, and concerns on voluntary disclosure. Christian Aid looks at ways to address these concerns, which could be discussed and debated as legislation were to be drafted.

Overall, it seems there is far less direct opposition to CBCR than previously thought. This survey, followed by one conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper in 2014 which found that 59% of CEOs would favor public CBCR, shows there is a trend toward acknowledging transparency’s role in the financial system.

This all comes at a unique time, as the European Commission, Parliament, and Council begin negotiations on the Shareholder’s Rights Directive, which could see public country by country reporting instituted EU-wide.

Written by Adam Gerlach

Adam is the FTC's Fall Intern

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