Legal requirements for disclosure in advance of schemes for tax avoidance are a useful instrument for tax enforcement. However, in most countries where they have been introduced they affect mainly small and medium enterprises and wealthy individuals, and do not cover most avoidance by large multinational enterprises (MNEs). This is because they target standard schemes which are widely marketed by promoters, whereas MNEs generally use arrangements tailored to their specific needs, even if based on standard techniques. For example, it seems that the tax clearances arranged by PwC in Luxembourg over a period of eight years for 343 MNEs were not notified under the UK’s DOTAS requirements.
This DD mainly discusses standard schemes, but also includes some relevant proposals to adapt disclosure requirements to international corporate tax avoidance, which we support, with some suggested modifications. In our view, however, more needs to be done in this respect. Hence, we recommend extension of notification requirements to providers not only promoters, and put forward some hallmarks based on common international tax avoidance structures. In addition, we suggest that further specific hallmarks should be identified as part of the work on the other specific BEPS Action Plan points, to ensure that mandatory disclosure schemes can play a part in helping tax administration monitor compliance during the implementation phase of the BEPS project.
Like all methods of improving compliance, mandatory disclosure must balance deterrence with cooperation. However, there should be safeguards against the pitfalls experienced by some forms of ‘cooperative compliance’, which have led to public concerns about ‘sweetheart deals’. An important safeguard is greater transparency, and we recommend that the proposals should include (i) provisions for access to information derived from notification by a wide range of other tax authorities, and (ii) standards for reporting to the public of information and data from disclosure arrangements, to facilitate independent evaluation of the effects of such schemes.