Good Tax Governance: A Matter of Moral Responsibility and Transparency
Nordic Tax Journal 2017 Issue 1: 70-88
19 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2017
Date Written: May 12, 2017
Multinational corporations’ tax practices are hotly debated nowadays. Multinationals are accused of not paying their fair share of taxes. Apparently, acting within the limits set by law is not sufficient to qualify as morally responsible behavior anymore.
This article offers ethical reflection on the current debate.The general public typically evaluates (aggressive) tax planning in moral terms rather than legal terms. Therefore, multinationals need to reflect on their tax planning strategy next to economic and legal terms also in ethical terms. This article addresses the relationship between society, morality and taxes. The concepts of tax planning, “aggressive tax planning”, “tax evasion” and “tax avoidance” are elaborated on to exemplify the difference between a purely legal and broader approach. In moral terms, aggressive tax planning may imply loss of integrity and trust which may entail certain costs for businesses, such as reputation damage. It will be argued that in order to improve corporate reputation and (moral) leadership, corporate social responsibility (CSR), endorsed by many corporations around the globe, is a helpful tool. Reflection on tax planning in the context of CSR – good tax governance – should foster a moral mind set and enhance accountability and transparency.
Keywords: multinationals, tax avoidance, aggressive tax planning, corporate moral agency, corporate social responsibility (CSR), Carroll’s CSR Pyramid, transparency, Starbucks
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