On 22 October Hill+Knowlton Strategies hosted an exclusive breakfast session focusing on “What is a fairer corporate taxation system for the EU?” The discussion was open, lively and energetic, thanks to the expert insights of high level speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament and EY. With tax issues high on the agenda particularly following last Wednesday’s ruling by the European Commission that Fiat and Starbucks had received tax breaks that amounted to illegal state aid, participants joined Valère Moutarlier, Director at DG TAXUD, MEP Philippe Lamberts, as well as Aidan O’Carroll, Global Compliance and Reporting Leader at EY to debate the key issues currently on the table.
Acknowledging the European Commission’s goals to create a stronger, more competitive Single Market, discussion at the event focused largely on the Transparency Package published in March 2015, the Action Plan for Fair and Efficient Corporate Taxation in the EU which was published last June as well as the actions being undertaken by the OECD. Faced with these initiatives and thus a new reality, panellists discussed the challenges faced by EU Member States and multinationals to be more transparent.
Clearly it is very difficult to define a commonly agreed tax system at an EU level and to translate this into legislation. Apparent differences in treatment between smaller companies and multinationals increase the need for new legislation to create a level playing field. Since the start of the new Commission, actions have focused on framing the agenda for the entire mandate through the Transparency Package and the Action Plan for Fair and Efficient Corporate Tax. In 2016, the European Union will focus on deciding how to implement Base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS). The Commission also plans to present a new Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) proposal next year. The Netherlands which assumes its EU Presidency mandate on 01 January 2016, seems also keen to focus on these themes.
Increased transparency by introducing Country-by-Country Reporting (CBCR) is challenging with Member States opposing important aspects of this principle. Nevertheless it was acknowledged how much the debate has shifted in recent years with public entities now increasingly examining public disclosure, the risks entailed as well as the meaning of fair tax. With an evolving landscape and a digital market, companies are trading differently in today’s world. As such it is important to recognise that some of the tax rules in place today are no longer appropriate. In addition, a company’s reputation and what this means in a world which demands more transparency has also forced companies to rethink their strategies.