Update: December 2019
If you are one of the millions of people who have seen Rutger Bregman’s intervention at the World Economic Forum in Davos, you will realize that transparency on tax payments is an important aspect of sustainability and social responsibility. In order to help drive such transparency, the Global Reporting Initiative is releasing a new reporting standard on tax and payments to governments.
„We have got to be talking about taxes“ said Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian that was invited to attend the World Economic Forum of 2019. “That’s it, taxes, taxes, taxes.” A video recording of his intervention immediately went viral, garnering widespread support from people and organizations across the globe. Paying a fair share of taxes, the consensus goes, is a key element of good corporate citizenship and social responsibility.
In order to help companies report transparently and evenly on their tax strategy and payments, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) of GRI has been developing a reporting standard that focuses on tax payments. The standard was published in December 2019.
What disclosures are reporting organizations required to make?
Organizations that wish to report in accordance with the new standard, are required to disclose:
- Their management approach, covering specific tax components. These include the content of the tax strategy, how the organization’s business strategy and the economic or social impacts of its approach to tax and payments to governments are considered in the development of this strategy, the tax governance and control framework, tax risk
identification and management, and the approach to stakeholder engagement and management of stakeholder concerns in relation to tax and payments to governments.
- New topic-specific disclosures, focused on the country-by-country reporting of financial, economic, and tax-related data for each tax jurisdiction in which the organization operates.
Benefits of using the Standards
If used correctly, the new GRI Standards on tax can bring substantial benefits, both to reporting organizations as well as their stakeholders. Dr. Sied Sadek, Lead Certified Sustainability Assurance Practitioner and CEO of DQS CFS, sees great value in the new standard: “Companies who report transparently on their tax strategy and payments are in a much more credible position when it comes to social responsibility. It is a way for them to demonstrate their contribution to society. Moreover, they are also getting ready for future regulatory requirements: not only the EU, but also other countries are intensifying the pressure on companies to publicly report their tax payments on a country-by-country basis.”
Not only the reporting organizations, but also their stakeholders will benefit from the new standard. Many investors have been advocating greater tax transparency, in order to reduce their exposure to risk stemming from the lack of information on tax practices.
Is the GRI Tax Standard material for your organization?
The GRI Standards for sustainability reporting do not necessarily require organizations to use all GRI Standards. Rather, they require organizations to report on those topics that are significant to their stakeholders, and/or those topics that have a significant economic, environmental or social impact. The question of whether the topic of taxes is material for your organizations is one that can only be answered through a detailed materiality assessment.
That being said, the standard is likely to be particularly relevant for multinationals, who operate in multiple countries but for which it is often unclear where taxes are paid. Another group of companies for which this standard is most likely material are those who extract natural
resources (mining, forestry, …) in one country, but make profit in another.
The GRI Standard on Tax and Government Payment was published on December 5, 2019. Here you can download the document free of charge.