Accounting (f)or Tax: The Global Battle for Corporate Transparency

25 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018

Date Written: April 24, 2018


A growing number of leaks and scandals from tax havens have put tax avoidance by multinational companies on the political agenda. Yet under conditions of corporate financial secrecy, reforms remain incomplete and their impact on reducing illicit financial flows uncertain. This paper details how proposals by the United Nations for greater corporate transparency, and specifically rules to compel multinational companies to break down their consolidated accounts to a company specific, or regional, basis have been blocked by the business lobby for a period of over forty years. It discerns three main lobby tactics used to prevent progress, namely forum shifting, regulatory capture/embedded lobbyism and reframing. These tactics first resulted in shifting responsibility for global accounting standard setting away from the United Nations, and to the self-regulatory bodies dominated by the Big 4 accounting firms. Later, these tactics were used to block progress at the OECD and European Union levels. The three major capital-exporting nations Germany, Japan and the United States are shown to play a key role in defending the status quo of corporate secrecy and accounting self regulation under which corporate tax avoidance can thrive.

Keywords: Illicit Financial Flows, Tax Avoidance, Accounting Standards, Corporate Taxation, Tax Competition, United Nations, OECD, Financial Secrecy

JEL Classification: F23, O19, M48

Suggested Citation

Meinzer, Markus and Trautvetter, Christoph, Accounting (f)or Tax: The Global Battle for Corporate Transparency (April 24, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Markus Meinzer (Contact Author)

Tax Justice Network ( email )

38, Stanley Avenue
Chesham, HP5 2JG
United Kingdom

Christoph Trautvetter

Independent ( email )

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