Friday, June 28, 2013

Manal Corwin, now at KPMG, to discuss Reputational Risk Deriving from the Tax Transparency Movement

Fresh out of Treasury, Manal Corwin and some of her new/old colleagues will present a webcast next Tuesday on Tax Transparency and OECD Initiative on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting:
KPMG's Tax Governance Institute will host a webcast that addresses the implications of tax transparency and the potential impact of the OECD initiative on base erosion and profit shifting. Board and audit committee members, CFOs, tax directors and other business professionals interested in attending the program – one in a series of KPMG presentations on this timely topic – can register at:
The webcast will focus on "the debate over the shift of taxable business income out of the United States and high-tax jurisdictions around the world and into low or no-tax jurisdictions, and the resulting issue of tax base erosion." I'm not sure if debate is the right word there.  Is there a debate about these two phenomena existing as a factual matter? I think no.  Is there a debate about the appropriateness of such shifting and base erosion? I think decidedly yes.

Interestingly, however, KPMG suggests this is a debate about neither the existence nor the appropriateness of profit shifting and base erosion, but rather it is specifically about transparency, namely, the extent to which the public will gain a right to know about the existence and legal sanction of these practices:
The global debate on tax transparency has sparked both public interest and concerns among many companies, and the spotlight will grow brighter in coming weeks as the OECD prepares to deliver its coordinated action plan on base erosion and profit shifting and the European Commission moves forward with announced plans to address issues around tax fairness. With potentially significant changes in future tax obligations and reputational risks at stake, senior executives and board members at multinational companies should find this webcast, and those that will follow, especially useful as they formulate how their organizations should respond to the debate and possible outcomes.
[Emphasis mine.]  This statement is from Brett Weaver, who is described as "tax partner in KPMG's International Corporate Services practice and the firm's partner-in-charge of Tax Transparency" and a member of KPMG's "Tax Transparency Steering Committee," along with Corwin, who is described by KPMG as:
national leader of KPMG's International Corporate Services practice, principal-in-charge of International Tax Policy in the firm's Washington National Tax practice, and former deputy assistant secretary for Tax Policy for International Tax Affairs in the U.S. Treasury Department and U.S. delegate/vice chair to the OECD's Committee on Fiscal Affairs. 
The other participant on the webcast will be Philip Kermode, "director of the Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union of the European Commission".

It seems very clear to me that the "reputational risk" Weaver identifies is going to be something corporate tax managers and their legal & accounting advisers will be forced to price in going forward. The last paragraph illuminates this:
...the [KPMG] Tax Governance Institute ... provides opportunities for board members, corporate management, stakeholders, government representatives and others to share knowledge regarding the identification, oversight, management, and appropriate disclosure of tax risk.
I think it is safe to attribute the creation of reputational risk (or what some might call an internalizing of a cost that heretofore has been externalized thanks to strong corporate tax confidentiality laws), as well as any potential that may currently exist for systemic change to occur in the OECD's approach to the taxation of multinationals, to the international tax activist movement. As a result this should be a very informative webcast.


  1. Philip Kermode is Victoria's buddy. From what she and others told me he gave her and the rest of her party a very nasty look in the Parliament building in Brussels. Like what are "you people" i.e. US citizens in Europe trying to cause trouble for.

  2. Interesting paper, Allison. I had no idea that so much has been done already to put pressure on multi-nationals to reveal where they pay taxes and how much.

    I find it very interesting how "tax evasion" (illegal) and "tax avoidance" (legal) can be considered as roughly equivalent in the mind of the average person. It is a moral issue just as much as a legal one.

    Could you recommend any other books or articles that would talk more about the moral dimension of tax policy?