For a long time, I have been fascinated with the consistency of multinational corporations’ responses to corporate tax controversies. Arguably, there a few phenomena 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.
Over at Tax Twitter, we have dubbed this type of response “the tax mantra“. It even has its own meme.
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)
- Dassault Aviation: “Dassault Aviation complies with all of its tax obligations and in this respect pays taxes and duties in the countries where it conducts its industrial activities”. (Press release)
- Deloitte: “We work in accordance with governments’ laws and regulations as we assist clients in effectively managing their business affairs. We apply strict principles of conduct that ensure ethical safeguards.” (FT)
- 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)
- EY: “All our advice, whether in planning or compliance, is based on our knowledge of tax law and providing transparency to tax authorities. EY does not offer mass market tax planning schemes”. (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)
- Mossack Fonseca: “The facts are these: while we may have been the victim of a data breach, nothing we’ve seen in this illegally obtained cache of documents suggests we’ve done anything illegal.” (CNN)
- Microsoft: “Microsoft follows all rules and regulations to the letter.” (The Sun)
- Nike: “Nike fully complies with tax regulations and we rigorously ensure our tax filings are fully aligned with how we run our business, the investments we make and the jobs we create.” (The Guardian)
- 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.
2 responses to “The tax mantra”
[…] risk implies increased responsibility. In the same way that the corporate tax mantra may not suffice for the public when corporations are explaining their tax affairs, the reference […]
[…] change over time, shifting from building on a literal interpretation of the law (cf. the ‘tax mantra‘), to a focus on commerciality and economic substance (cf. BEPS), to a wider concern with the […]