Advancing Corporate Tax Transparency

Authors: Giulia Aliprandi, and Kane Borders

Multinational enterprises have risen to become dominant forces in the global economy, accompanied by a troubling trend of aggressive tax avoidance. In 2022 alone, an estimated $1 trillion in profits was shifted to tax havens by multinationals, amounting to 35% of all profits booked outside their headquarters countries (Alstadsæter et al., 2023). Despite tax avoidance being a major public concern, the specific practices employed by individual companies have remained largely opaque to the public due to a lack of transparency and public disclosure obligations. Comprehensive transparency measures promote informed policymaking, accountability, public trust, and sustainable development globally. This report examines the current landscape of corporate tax transparency and evaluates how emerging transparency measures could shape future developments in this critical area.

We focus on corporate tax transparency measures via Country-by-Country Reporting (CbCR), where multinationals disclose detailed financial and tax-related information for each country of operation. We collected the publicly available CbCR reports and compiled them into a single database: the Public CbCR Database.

This new data source highlights that large multinationals, particularly from Western Europe, are leading the way as primary publishers of such reports. Overall, the large multinationals publishing public CbCR account for less than 2% of large companies, and less than 5% of global revenues and global profits. Despite the small numbers, our research reveals an upward trend in voluntary CbCR disclosures, signalling increasing tax transparency practices. However, significant gaps remain, as U.S. multinationals and firms from major economies like China and Russia have only a few CbCR disclosures available.

The European Union (EU) made an important step in furthering corporate tax transparency by adopting a mandatory CbCR directive that started applying this year in many EU countries. Our simulations reveal the impact this directive will have. Nearly one-third of large U.S. MNEs will be compelled to publish more disaggregated financial information than ever before publicly available. The increased disclosure from these U.S. corporate giants, who have historically been opaque, could be a breakthrough in tax transparency. However, the directive has serious limitations, as the requirements for geographical disaggregations are largely insufficient to truly evaluate the activity of multinationals. Broader adoption and enhancement of corporate tax transparency initiatives are crucial, we suggest several ways to improve the directive going forward.