MEPs regret that multinationals – the usual beneficiaries of tax rulings – seem unable to find time to discuss their tax practices in public before the European Parliament’s Tax Rulings Committee, despite its best efforts to accommodate them, they said on Tuesday. The companies invited, and their replies so far, are listed in the link to the right.
Most of the multinationals invited so far have declined their invitations. Those that were invited to a hearing on 1 June hearing but could not make it due to "travel arrangements", "other commitments" or for other reasons, were offered an opportunity to appear on an alternative date, either on 23 June or 2 July.
So far one company, Total S.A. has agreed to appear before the committee on 23 June. Talks are still under way with the Coca-Cola Company, Barclays Bank Group, Amazon Co UK Ltd, Walt Disney Company, Facebook and SSE plc.Those that declined are: McDonalds, IKEA, Google, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Amazon Europe, AB In-Bev, and HSBC.
Is transparency bad for companies?
"It is surprising to see that most of the multinationals initially decline to appear before our committee. If they stick to their refusal, it will come across as if they have more to lose than to win by being transparent about the way they fulfil their legal obligations in Europe. It is up to their shareholders, staff, clients, partners and all the EU citizens to decide what they make of that", said the chair of Parliament's Special Committee on Tax Rulings, Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR).
Co-rapporteur Elisa Ferreira (S&D, PT) says "the refusal of the invited multinationals to shed light on their tax situation - particularly those with a bigger corporate and social responsibility - should be taken very seriously. This is especially the case for European citizens who have been increasingly overburdened with taxes so as to make up for tax dodging by big corporations."
Co-rapporteur Michael Theurer (ALDE, DE) thinks the potential absence of the multinationals is "absolutely unacceptable". He considers their presence "essential to clarify crucial questions such as whether the tax savings were actively proposed by member states, maybe even aggressively promoted."
In the wake of the “Luxleaks” scandal, the Tax Rulings Committee has held a series of meetings and public hearings in which players from across the tax spectrum have shared their knowledge and given their views. These include representatives of the “Big Four” consultancy firms (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG), tax association representatives, the “Luxleaks” whistle blowers and investigative journalists, representatives of the OECD, European Commission and EU member states, academics and transparency NGOs.
Committee members have also visited Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands, where they were received by the ministers and secretaries of state responsible (except in Belgium where this will happen at another moment), national finance committee MPs, tax experts from the Big Four firms, tax professors and NGOs. The UK will be visited on 18 June. The full list of speakers so far can be found here.