Country-by-country reporting in the UK Parliament

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As I've said, it seems like country-by-country reporting day.

The issue was discussed in Parliament yesterday and has been reported in the Guardian. As they reported:

A parliamentary inquiry is likely to press the government into signing an international agreement to force oil, gas and mining companies to report how much tax they pay to developing countries.

The recommendation is expected to follow the conclusion of a series of select committee hearings in front of the International Development Committee, including Tuesday's session where two of the largest multinationals listed on the London Stock Exchange insisted it would be difficult and costly for them to make wider disclosures on taxation.

John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network was amongst those giving evidence yesterday but the Guardian has focussed on those submitting evidence from business. As they note:

Senior executives from commodity trading group Glencore and brewer SAB Miller appeared to resist calls by campaign groups and development agencies for more transparency.

During questioning Tim Scott, global head of tax at Glencore, said: "For country by country reporting of financial information, there are pros and cons. The pros are the transparency. The cons are the cost of producing this information in a reliable and audited format. The second potential disadvantage is with this information it is not clear to me that anybody would be any the wiser on the level of taxation paid or whether the right tax had been paid at all. That is simply because one has to look at financial reports in the context of the tax law and tax returns before one gets a very clear idea. So I'm not too sure that this is amazingly useful."

Lord Browne clearly does not agree. And to be candid, Glencore are just wrong. But not as wrong maybe as Graham Mackay, chief executive of SAB Miller, who said to the committee:

This transparency drive to achieve a right outcome, we believe is doomed.

That's now just tilting against windmills to preserve the right to exploit tax rules, and those days are fast drawing to a close, thankfully. Country-by-country reporting will end them.