Many investors with a 'socially responsible' mandate say they have long taken account of companies' tax practices when deciding where to invest, but few if any funds have made a point of screening out companies over tax issues, according to more than a dozen industry professionals contacted by Reuters.
That may be about to change.
FTSE Group, which compiles the share indexes that fund managers in the UK, United States and Asia use to build investment portfolios, said it was looking into excluding companies with what it called overly aggressive tax reduction policies from its ethical index group, FTSE4Good.
"Tax is one of the areas which the independent FTSE4Good Policy Committee are considering, among other criteria priorities," a spokeswoman said. FTSE did not say when it would reach its decision.
I warmly welcome this, as I also do a report that says:
Jacky Prudhomme and Helena Vines-Fiesta, co-heads of Environmental, Social & Governance research at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, said they were working on a system for screening out companies with inappropriate tax practices. The Paris-based asset manager had 513 billion euros in assets under management as of March 2012.
They, however, note:
"We are not at this stage in a position to assess tax strategies in a systematic manner due to lack of underlying data. However, we are starting to examine how we can do this in some sectors," Prudhomme said, but did not say which sectors.
I am doing the same thing and have got a long way with the thinking. We're not there yet, but I think it is possible to rank companies on tax. Watch this space.