UK

Certain businesses have to publish their tax strategy and be able to demonstrate how the tax strategy is being applied in practice. The strategy should set out the business’ attitude to tax risk, its appetite for tax planning and its approach to its relationship with HMRC. Although it applies to the UK, being consistent across jurisdictions is important as these obligations might be a global tax trend.

 

Revenue losses from BEPS are conservatively estimated at USD 100-240 billion annually , or anywhere from 4-10% of global corporate income tax (CIT) revenues. Given developing countries’ greater reliance on CIT revenues as a percentage of tax revenue, the impact of BEPS on these countries is particularly significant.

Executive Board level who is responsible for owning the tax strategy should sign off and the company is required to publish. It also shows us that increased scrutiny of tax strategy by a business’s Board actively discourages aggressive tax planning, with businesses stating that tax was now of “particular concern for senior management. 

Building on this, the proposal is to include a requirement to have a named individual at Executive Board level who is responsible for owning and signing off the tax strategy.

This will further encourage bringing responsibility for tax into the boardroom and align with the best practice many businesses already exhibit.

The requirement for Board-level oversight echoes the existing Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) regime, which provides assurance that a business has adequate tax accounting arrangements in place. The SAO regime does not, however, extend to a business’ tax strategy.

What is the current state also taken into conideration that this might be a global tax trend?


Benchmark

Benchmarking provides objective evidence. It can show whether or not you have achieved your objective set such as a 'mature' tax function' or make visible what needs to be done to make that happen. It might provide the extra arguments to realize change and get buy-in.

Benchmarking yourself against your peers

The slide deck starts with a trend overview of the author and subsequently relevant tax survey findings were gathered that relate to these trends spotted.


Consultation 

On 22 July 2015 the Revenue & Customs in the UK have published two linked consultation documents that relate to compliance and anti-avoidance. Both are directed at behaviours and behavioural change for large corporates in particular.

The document entitled Improving Large Business Compliance contains 3 main proposals:

  • A legislative requirement for large businesses to publish their tax strategy
  • A voluntary ‘Code of Practice on Taxation for Large Business’
  • A ‘Special Measures’ regime to apply to businesses continually undertaking aggressive tax planning or persistently refusing to engage with HMRC in an open and collaborative manner.

In relation to tax strategy, the document sets out the areas that should be covered by a tax strategy and also proposes that businesses could publish information to demonstrate how the tax strategy is being applied in practice. The strategy should set out the business’s attitude to tax risk, its appetite for tax planning and its approach to its relationship with HMRC. It may also cover the governance framework describing the way a business takes decisions on taxation. 

The research found that “businesses with a greater appetite for risk tend[ed] not to have written (or published) tax strategies, while those with lower risk-appetite tended to have more formalised strategies. Businesses will be required to inform HMRC as and when it is published.

There are varying media for publication including the business’s website, or existing publications such as the Annual Report and Accounts.


HMRC guidance publish your tax strategy - June 24, 2016


Who needs to publish

If you’re a company, partnership, group or sub-group, you’ll need to publish a tax strategy if in your previous tax year you have either a:

  • turnover above £200 million 
  • balance sheet over £2 billion

For groups and sub-groups, it’s the combined totals of all the relevant bodies that you must use. This is separate to the 2014 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) ‘Country-by-Country Reporting’ model (CBCR). A business not headed by a UK company not meeting the threshold in its own right may still qualify if they satisfy the OECD’s CBCR framework threshold of a global turnover of more than €750 million.


 Who doesn’t need to publish

 You don’t need to publish a tax strategy if you’re an:

  • open-ended investment company
  • investment trust

Responsibility

Your business is responsible for determining whether it meets the threshold and for publishing the tax strategy, unless it’s part of a group or sub-group. In these cases it’s the responsibly of the head of the group or sub-group. You can publish a strategy on behalf of a group or sub-group if your company is registered in the UK.


What to include in your strategy

Your tax strategy will explain your business’s tax arrangements. You don’t need to include amounts of tax paid or commercially sensitive information. If your group has a separate UK tax strategy you should publish the relevant parts.


Partnerships

HMRC wants to know how your partnership as a whole manages its tax affairs.


Multinational

If your business is part of a multinational group, you should publish any strategy, or parts, relevant to UK tax.


How you manage tax risks

You should work out and include what tax risks are linked to your business’s size, complexity and any changes to your business. Other information on governance arrangements to include:

  • details on how you manage your business’s tax risk
  • a high level description of key roles and their responsibilities
  • information on the systems and controls in place to manage tax risk
  • details on the levels of oversight of your business’s board and its involvement

Your attitude to tax planning

If your business has a code of conduct you should include details of it. You should also include:

  • why you might seek external tax advice, if any
  • an outline of your tax planning motives
  • the importance of each to your tax strategy

Where your business forms part of either a group or sub-group, you should include the group’s overall approach to structuring tax planning.


Your tax risks

You should say if your business’s internal governance has rigid levels of acceptable tax risk. If so, you should explain how it is influenced by stakeholders.


Working with HMRC

While your business’s approach to working with HMRC will be understood by your Customer Relations Manager (CRM), you’ll still need to put it in your tax strategy. You should include:

  • how your business meets its requirement to work with us
  • how you work with us on:
    • current, future and past tax risks
    • tax events
    • interpreting the law

You can include further information to add value, understanding or context. CRMs won’t give you any clearances in relation to publishing details of your dealings with us.


How to publish 

You must make your tax strategy available free of charge on the internet as either a:

  • separate document
  • self-contained part of a wider document

You must make it available to the public free of charge until the following year’s strategy has been published. It doesn’t need to be called a strategy.


When to publish

Your first strategy should be published before the end of your first financial year commencing after Royal Assent of Finance (No. 2) Bill 2016. Your strategy counts as ‘published’ when it is first put on the internet. After the first strategy, you must publish one each year, within 15 months of the last one being published. Although you don’t have to notify HMRC when you’ve published, it would be helpful for HMRC to assess compliance if you let your CRM know when you have done so.


Penalties

You can get a penalty if you haven’t published your tax strategy correctly and in time. You may also receive a penalty if your strategy doesn’t remain accessible free of charge until publication of the next strategy. HMRC will send you a warning notice giving you 30 days to either publish your strategy or make it available again (free of charge).

Any penalty will run from the first day you didn’t publish your strategy properly. The penalties are for:

  • the first 6 months - up to £7,500
  • 6 to 12 months - a further penalty of up to £7,500
  • more than 12 months - £7,500 every additional month

If your business is part of a group or sub-group the head will get the penalty.


Appeals

If you believe you shouldn’t have a penalty, you should speak with your CRM first. You can appeal any penalty.



Relevant chapters



Written by Richard Cornelisse

Richard LinkedInI advise multinational businesses in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their Indirect Tax Function and Tax Control Framework.

I started my career as a manager at Arthur Andersen and then became a partner in EY where I led the indirect tax performance team for Netherlands and Belgium. Currently I am a senior managing director of Key Group.

I have over 20 years’ experience advising clients on international VAT issues. I am specialized in the tax aspects of financial transformations, shared service centre migration, and post merger integration work. I am also somewhat of a mentor, giving back to the profession. If you are interested in conversation and discussion, please feel free to contact me.


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