For a long time, I have been fascinated with the consistency of multinational corporations’ responses to corporate tax controversies. Arguably, there a few phenomenon in international taxation today so prevalent and consistent as these responses.
Usually, they go something like:
We pay all taxes and follow all rules in every country where we operate.
On this page, I am collecting instances of the tax mantra. If you see any such instances, please do alert me here or via Twitter. Furthermore, I will add useful links and other bits of information.
(To avoid any misinterpretation, this page is not intended to pass a moral judgment on the value or lack thereof of the tax mantra. Rather, it is a repository of information from which I hope a further debate can spring.)
Instances of the tax mantra:
- Airbnb: “We follow the rules and pay all the tax we owe in the places we do business.” (The Guardian)
- Amazon: “Amazon pays all the taxes that are required in every country where we operate.” (The Guardian)
- Ebay: “In all countries and at all times, eBay is fully compliant with national, EU and international tax rules including those of the OECD, including the remittance of [value added tax] to the appropriate authorities.” (FT)
- Facebook: “We do not avoid tax. We comply with all tax laws in the countries in which we operate.” (Independent)
- Google: “Google complies with the tax laws in every country where we operate.” (Bloomberg)
- Kellogg’s: “We pay all corporate tax according to the laws of the countries in which we operate.” (AccountingWEB)
- McDonald’s: “McDonald’s complies with all applicable tax laws including the timely and accurate payment of taxes that are owed in the UK.” (Telegraph)
- Microsoft: “Microsoft follows all rules and regulations to the letter.” (The Sun)
- npower: “I want to be very clear that we have nothing to hide and that we pay all tax that is due.” (npower)
- Oxfam: “The fact is that we are very careful to comply not just with the letter of the law on tax but also the intention behind it.” (via Maya Forstater)
- PwC: “The advice we provide is given in accordance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, including proper disclosure to tax authorities, and adheres to the highest professional standards.” (Business Insider)
- Serco: “All Serco Australia revenues are received in Australia and we pay all tax that is due in Australia.” (Canberra Times)
- Starbucks: “We comply with all relevant tax rules, laws, and OECD guidelines.” (Daily Mail)
- Uber: “We comply with all rules. We pay tax in all countries of operation.” (Politiken)
- Vodafone: “We pay all tax that is due in all of the countries in which we operate.” (Channel 4)
- Previously, I have discussed that national histories, politics and corporate tax behaviour influence debates about responsible corporate tax practices.
- A consultancy study from 2017 indicates that around 60% of corporate responses to tax controversies are some version of the tax mantra, a general statement of acknowledgement without further detail or engagement. In another 34% of cases, there was no reaction at all. In only 6% of cases were more extensive actions undertaken.