The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct are a set of recommendations directed at multinational enterprises, aiming to promote their positive contributions to economic, environmental, and social progress. These guidelines encompass various aspects of business responsibility, including human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, bribery prevention, consumer interests, transparency, science and technology, competition, and taxation.
In June, the 2023 edition of the Guidelines was published, with updated recommendations for responsible business conduct in crucial areas such as climate change, biodiversity, technology, business ethics, and supply chain due diligence. This article is about the tax aspects of the Guidelines.
The significance of these guidelines, particularly the tax chapter, cannot be overstated, as they are explicitly referenced in sustainable finance regulations such as the EU SFDR and Taxonomy regulations. Furthermore, they have influenced the development of the GRI 207 Tax standard.
One of the general policies included in the Guidelines is that companies should:
“Ensure transparency and integrity in lobbying activities, and refrain from seeking or accepting exemptions not contemplated in the statutory or regulatory framework related to … taxation.”
This is further detailed in two guidelines on taxation:
- It is important that enterprises contribute to the public finances of host countries by making timely payment of their tax liabilities. In particular, enterprises should comply with both the letter and spirit of the tax laws and regulations of the countries in which they operate. Complying with the spirit of the law means discerning and following the intention of the legislature. It does not require an enterprise to make payment in excess of the amount legally required pursuant to such an interpretation. Tax compliance includes such measures as providing to the relevant authorities timely information that is relevant or required by law for purposes of the correct determination of taxes to be assessed in connection with their operations and conforming transfer pricing practices to the arm’s length principle.
- Enterprises should treat tax governance and tax compliance as important elements of their oversight and broader risk management systems. In particular, corporate boards should adopt tax risk management strategies to ensure that the financial, regulatory and reputational risks associated with taxation are fully identified and evaluated.
The 2023 edition unfortunately only includes minor updates in the field of these tax principles, even though the tax landscape has changed materially since the previous update, published in 2011. The key updates are:
- Acknowledging the provisions regarding transparency in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework's Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, including references to Country-by-country-reporting and DAC6.
- Incorporating revisions to the transfer pricing guidelines.
- Emphasizing the significance of the Multilateral Instrument in preventing base erosion and profit shifting.
It remains valuable that these OECD guidelines acknowledge tax as a crucial topic within responsible business conduct. Many stakeholders use them in their day to day sustainability operations and incorporate them into their sustainability and tax policies and any guidance that is added, is helpful.
You can find the updated guidelines here. Do you want to know more about the guidelines or about tax and sustainability in general? Feel free to contact Gerard, Femke or your normal PwC contact person.
Femke Van der Zeijden and Gerard Fauria Bayo is a director in the M&A and Private Equity tax team at PwC Stockholm and together with Gerard of the ESG Tax Core team at PwC. Gerard Fauria Bayo is an associate in the Swedish transfer pricing team based in Stockholm, Sweden. He joined the team in April 2022, after spending six years studying a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Economics at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.
Femke: +4672-995 87 30, email@example.com
Gerard: +4673-860 17 91, firstname.lastname@example.org