Policy Analysis

Muddled Markets

Investors are at an increasing risk due to the lack of information disclosed by companies about their tax practices, according to this November 2018 report published by the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition (FACT Coalition). Titled “Muddled Markets: Investors Increasingly at Risk from Lack of Disclosures about Corporate Tax Practices,” the report finds that multinational companies have become increasingly reliant on offshore tax avoidance practices to boost short-term earnings in recent years, yet disclosure requirements haven’t kept pace with this changing world.

As governments around the globe struggle with growing budget deficits, tax authorities are increasingly cracking down on aggressive tax avoidance practices, which can have a significant impact on shareholder value. At the same time, shifting national policies around international taxation — including, but not limited to, the recent tax overhaul in the United States — create complexity and uncertainties with respect to returns for investors.

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Briefing Memo: Publicly Traded Companies Should Publicly Report Where They Are Booking Profits and Paying Taxes

As governments around the world begin to crack down on aggressive offshore tax avoidance, numerous companies find themselves in the crosshairs of tax authorities.  Alphabet (Google),3 Amazon,4 Apple,5 Caterpillar,6 Gap,7 Facebook,8 Hewlett-Packard,9 McDonalds,10 Microsoft,11 Shell,12 and Starbucks13 have all faced penalties or are in disputes with tax authorities over their aggressive tax avoidance practices.

The new tax law will do little to change the risk factors.  While Congress eliminated deferral of taxes for profits booked offshore, the new 50% (or greater) discount on the overseas rate creates a powerful new incentive to move money overseas.14

For policymakers, investors, and other stakeholders to better understand how the tax laws operate in practice, there is a need for public country-by-country reporting (CbCR) of certain revenue, profit, tax, and other information for multinational corporations (MNCs).

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FACT Sheet: Treasury’s CDD Rule: One Piece to a Larger Puzzle

Drug traffickers, corrupt officials, rogue nations seeking to evade sanctions, terrorists, and other criminals use anonymous companies to hide the money they steal and maintain the power they hold.

Many of the most dangerous criminal elements now operate sophisticated financial networks.  They have updated the way they do “business,” which Includes the use of companies with hidden owners.   As the rest of the world cracks down on corporate secrecy, the criminals and other wrongdoers are looking increasingly to the U.S.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Rule for Financial Institutions1 is a critical piece in a larger strategy to protect the integrity of our financial system from abuse and the nation from a broad array of harms.

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Polaris Fact Sheet: Business Transparency to Combat Human Trafficking

In cities throughout the United States, human trafficking rings operate illicit massage businesses, where women are forced to engage in commercial sex. Criminals engaged in human trafficking and money laundering are able to take advantage of the lack of transparency surrounding beneficial ownership of business entities to evade criminal prosecution. Congress must take action to ensure that law enforcement officials can identify the individual traffickers that control or benefit from illicit massage businesses and hold them accountable.

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Letter from Attorneys General to the House Financial Services Committee to Improve Corporate Transparency

Dear Chairman Hensarling and Ranking Member Waters:

Thank you for your diligent work crafting legislation to improve corporate transparency by requiring companies to disclose the identities of individuals who control and profit from the company at the time of its incorporation. We write to express our support for this change, which would prevent these individuals from using anonymous shell companies to evade accountability,
and to convey the importance of making this information available to state and local enforcement.

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