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The panel is unanimous: ”Tax has become a question of trust”

It was a knowledgeable and involved audience that attended Narva’s lunch seminar on 17 January to listen to David Perrone, responsible for Tax Management at KPMG, and Kristina AtKisson, Secretary General of the Swedish Association for Sustainable Business. The theme was ”Taxes – from cost to a question of trust”.

The panellists talked about the latest developments within the area of tax as a sustainability issue and discussed questions of how companies can create trust through managing, reporting and communicating taxes in relation to their stakeholders. Transparency was the key concept which recurred in the conversation. Moderator for the seminar was Claes Sjöberg, senior adviser at Narva.

”A lot has happened within the tax field in recent years and it has definitely become a question of trust. Stakeholders are increasingly asking questions about tax in particular, and it has come onto the radars of most large companies,” David Perrone says and continues:

”The attitude is no longer that taxes are simply a cost which has to be borne. An increased focus on responsible enterprise means that there are increased expectations for companies to be more transparent. The tax system has not kept up with the companies’ change management in recent years and extensive discussions are currently underway on how the system has to be changed.”

With increased requirements for transparency from owners and the media, companies know it is important to be proactive in their tax affairs. Kristina AtKisson described the trend in further detail:

”Increasing numbers of companies are addressing, reporting and drafting a policy for tax management. It is partly a question of responsibility and partly a question of risk management. In some cases it is the companies’ sustainability manager who is driving the question from a social perspective, in other cases it is more a question of risk management – both from a financial and brand point of view. As the area is still under development this is a new journey for many companies. A tendency that we are seeing is that increasing numbers of companies are considering taxes in relation to their values, responsibility and business ethics”.

In response to the question of what the future looks like, Kristina and David were agreed. In three years taxes will be a larger element in companies’ sustainability communication and will also be more visible in companies’ annual reports.

The work on how the tax system is to be changed is fully underway, and in the long term there will certainly be more regulatory requirements on companies. David Perrone pointed out that so far there are only a small number of large Swedish companies – Stora Enso, H&M, Electrolux and Sandvik – which have made public their fiscal policy and even small forward steps will therefore potentially have major significance. On the other hand, he predicted that we will also see countries lowering corporation tax in order to compete for companies.