FTSE 100 company defends tax policy and backs multilateral push for public country-by-country reporting

A FTSE 100 company has strongly denied engaging in tax avoidance, and has offered cautious support for steps toward the multilateral introduction of mandatory public country-by-country reporting of multinationals’ profits and taxes.

Responding to a report by Oxfam International, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (RB), a manufacturer of health, hygiene, and home products, said in a July 12 statement that it pays the correct amount of tax in each country where it does business: “As Oxfam recognises, RB’s tax policy is totally legal and the norm for the majority of global businesses. We comply with all our legal obligations and seek to do what is right by all the company’s stakeholders.”

An investigation found that “what RB terms ‘developing markets’ may have lost as much as £60 million in revenue due to the company’s tax practices,” Oxfam International said in a July 13 statement …

“We strongly refute the assertion made by Oxfam that RB’s decision made in 2012 to locate its regional ‘business headquarters’ in the Netherlands, Dubai, and Singapore was driven principally by tax avoidance,” RB said. Read more:

My news story for Tax Analysts, July 17 (paywall)

Oxfam said RB’s practices “show that the international tax system is broken”. RB’s reaction, published here and included in Oxfam’s report itself, is particularly interesting for two reasons. First:

Secondly, while RB expressed reservations about mandatory, public country-by-country reporting – on the basis that “some of this data is commercially sensitive” – it backed “the call on governments to take the necessary steps to accelerate public country-by-country reporting and to create a level playing field for all businesses irrespective of where they are headquartered”. In other words, it supports the UK government’s multilateral approach.