دود و آینه : مسئولیت اجتماعی شرکت و اجتناب از مالیات
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|21||2010||16 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting Forum, Volume 34, Issues 3–4, September–December 2010, Pages 153–168
The bourgeoning corporate social responsibility literature has paid little attention to organised tax avoidance by companies even though it has real consequences for the life chances of millions of people. Companies legitimise their social credentials by making promises of responsible and ethical conduct, but organisational culture and practices have not necessarily been aligned with publicly espoused claims. This paper draws attention to the gaps between corporate talk, decisions and action, or what may be characterised as organised hypocrisy. Its persistence can become a liability and threaten the welfare of the company, its employees and its executives. The paper provides examples to show how companies, including major accountancy firms, make promises of responsible conduct, but indulge in tax avoidance and evasion. It also shows that the exposure of contradictions between talk and action has yielded negative outcomes.
Recent years have seen a considerable increase in the variety and volume of literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR) (for example, see Banerjee, 2007, Cooper, 2004, Demirag, 2005, Frederick, 2006, Hawkins, 2006, Henderson, 2001, Solomon, 2007, Vogel, 2005 and Werther and Chandler, 2005). This literature is informed by a variety of theoretical perspectives and seeks to address issues about governance, economics, accountability, ethics, futures of capitalism, sustainability and ultimately the survival of the planet and the human race. As a result, we have a richer appreciation of the possibilities and limitations of addressing ecological, employment, investment, power, politics, gender and a variety of social problems. The concept of CSR is broader than simple compliance with law. Social history is littered with laws which permitted slavery, discrimination, abuse of women, children and workers, but their shortcomings have been contested on moral, ethical, accountability, human rights and other grounds. In the same traditions CSR is frequently associated with promises of ethical and socially responsible conduct by businesses and its scope is increasingly being broadened. Sustainability, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) notes that “Tax is the latest issue to emerge as part of a more thorough review of the economic impacts that companies have. It has become the subject of greater attention with a variety of stakeholder groups actively reviewing the approach that companies take to their tax policies and planning. … With the growing involvement of governments, the media, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and even religious groups, the issue is being transformed from a narrow technical discussion for specialists to one which is directly relevant to corporate responsibility” (Sustainability, 2006, p. 2). Increasingly, pressure groups and non-governmental organisations are highlighting the disparities between corporate claims of social responsibility and their practice of avoiding taxes1 which disable the capacity of governments to provide education, healthcare, security, pensions, clean water, or redistribute wealth to eradicate poverty, and provide a peaceful and equitable society (Action-Aid, 2008, Action-Aid, 2009, Christian-Aid, 2004, Christian-Aid, 2005, Christian-Aid, 2008a, Christian-Aid, 2008b, Christian-Aid, 2009 and Oxfam, 2000). However, comparatively little scholarly attention is paid to the payment of democratically agreed taxes (Christensen & Murphy, 2004); even though the payment of taxes is central to any notion of responsible citizenship and claims of social responsibility are part of the politics that enable the dominant class to advance its hegemony through consent rather than brute force. The links between CSR and tax avoidance may be neglected possibly because other than the standardised accounting information2 “companies rarely volunteer any detailed responses on tax issues … [there is] paucity of information released by companies on their taxation plans …” (Citigroup, 2006, pp. 4 and 20), and “it is rare for big business to see the payment of taxes as an explicit social duty” (The Guardian,3 14 February 2009). Major corporations increasingly produce brochures and reports containing promises of socially responsible conduct, but this has also been accompanied by large scale tax avoidance and evasion. The revenues lost are large and capable of making a difference to the quality of life for millions of people. The US Treasury estimates that it may be losing over $345 billion each year due to a variety of tax avoidance/evasion schemes (US Treasury, 2009). A US government report estimated that nearly 66% of the domestic and 68% of foreign corporations did not pay any federal corporate taxes during the period 1998–2005 (US Government Accountability Office, 2008). In 2005, 28% of large foreign companies, with sales in excess of $50 million and assets over $250 million, generated gross revenues of $372 billion, but paid no federal corporate taxes. The same study noted that 25% of the largest US companies had gross sales of over $1.1 trillion but paid no corporate taxes. The UK corporation tax rate has been reduced from 52% (prior to 1983) to 30% in 1999 and further down to 28% in 2008, but tax avoidance remains rampant. A UK government report estimates that some £40 billion of tax revenue is lost each year (HM Revenue and Customs, 2010) though other models and leaked government papers estimate it to be over £100 billion (Sunday Times, 4 June 2006; Lyssiotou, Pashardes, & Stengos, 2004). A UK government report showed that for the year 2005–2006, 220 of the 700 biggest companies paid no corporation tax and a further 210 companies paid less than £10 million each (National Audit Office, 2007) and 12 of the UK's largest companies extinguished all liabilities in 2005–2006 and scores more claimed tax losses (The Guardian, 31 January 2009). Developing countries, often some of the poorest, receive around $120 billion in foreign-aid (The Guardian 30 March 2009) from G20 countries, but are estimated to be losing between $858 billion and $1 trillion through illicit financial outflows each year, mainly to western countries (Kar & Cartwright-Smith, 2008). Around $500 billion is estimated to be lost through a variety of tax avoidance schemes (Baker, 2005 and Cobham, 2005), of which some $365 billion is attributed to transfer pricing practices that shift profits from developing to developed countries (Christian-Aid, 2009). An OECD official4 has estimated that Africa alone may be losing amounts equivalent to between 7% and 8% of its GDP, around $250 billion each year, through tax avoidance schemes. Such resources could be used to improve social infrastructure and quality of life for millions of people. Arguably, the payment of taxes provide a litmus test for corporate claims of social responsibility as it involves transfers of wealth and contrived avoidance cannot easily be reconciled with claims of ethical business conduct. It highlights tensions between corporate objective of maximising profits for shareholders and meeting their obligations to pay democratically agreed taxes. The persistence of tax avoidance and evasion draws attention to organised hypocrisy which may be understood as the gaps between the corporate talk, decisions and action (Brunsson, 1989 and Brunsson, 2003). In a conflict environment, companies and their executives appease diverse audiences by adopting double standards, or say one thing but do something entirely different. Hypocrisy is not the unintentional outcome of corporate culture. Rather it is actively produced within particular social and organisational contexts and reflects tensions between publicly espoused goals to meet social expectations and the failure to align organisational values, norms and practices with the espoused aims and goals (Weaver, 2008). Consequently, “two organizational structures evolve. One is the formal organization, which obeys the institutional norms and which can easily be adapted to new fashions or law, literally by a few strokes of a pen … second type is generally referred to as an “informal” organization. … Organizations can also produce double standards or double talk; i.e. keep different ideologies for external and internal use. The way management presents the organization and its goals to the outside world need not agree with the signals conveyed to the workforce” (Brunsson, 1989, p. 7). Thus companies may excel at talking about social responsibility, but at the same time devise schemes to avoid/evade taxes. This paper encourages research into the taxation aspects of corporate social responsibility because the revenues can make a difference to the quality of life of millions of people. It shows that there are considerable disparities between corporate claims of responsible and ethical conduct and their practices of avoiding and evading taxes. It shows that corporate hypocrisy is the outcome of systemic and organisational pressures to maximise profits and financial rewards for company executives. This paper is organised into three further sections. The next section offers a framework for exploring the systemic, social and organisational pressures that result in the production of soothing statements on social responsibility alongside internal practices, rituals and routines that deviate from the claims presented to external audiences. The second section provides extracts from a number of corporate responsibility statements and contrasts them with their practice of avoiding taxes. The final section reflects upon the evidence and its calls for research which could help to align corporate practices with social expectations.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper has sought to encourage research into corporate claims of socially responsible conduct by examining their tax practices. Arguably, few companies make any direct reference to payment of taxes in their social responsibility reports, but their claims of ethics, integrity, honesty, transparency and responsibility are meant to apply to all aspect of their operations. Since the payment of democratically agreed taxes in an important part of corporate citizenship this assumed that the declared standards also applied to taxes. The limited number of cases examined in this paper show that there is a considerable gap between corporate talk, decisions and action culminating in organised hypocrisy. Corporations have developed two cultures: one promises ethical conduct to external audiences and this is decoupled from the organisational practices which are geared to improving profits by avoiding and even evading taxes. In essence, companies have developed elaborate practices to appropriate returns due to society on its investment of social capital. Transfer pricing, royalty programmes, offshore tax havens and carefully structured transactions are just some of the techniques used to avoid taxes. Despite the allusions of transparency and integrity, none of the organisations examined in this paper communicated their tax avoidance practices to stakeholders, or explained the possible social consequences of avoiding taxes. Examples were provided to show how companies developed elaborate daily routines and administrative structures to indulge in tax avoidance. There is no legal or moral compulsion for company directors to indulge in tax evasion or avoidance. Rather it is a choice that they themselves have made in pursuit of higher profits, remuneration, status and media accolades. The contradictions between talk and action have been exposed by whistleblowers, investigators and law enforcement agencies. The implosion of hypocrisy has resulted in fines, imprisonment for some company executives and hostile press coverage. The negative outcomes may have persuaded some to take steps to align corporate culture with publicly espoused claims, but the systemic pressures to maximise profits, share prices and executive financial rewards present considerable barriers to securing long-term cultural change. In common with a number of other writers this paper cautions against too easily accepting corporate claims of social responsibility (Adler et al., 2007, Corporate Watch, 2006, Deegan, 2002 and Milne et al., 2002), especially as they are rarely accompanied by any snippets of organisational practices and culture. The public exposure of organised hypocrisy challenges corporate claims of social responsibility. By rendering the familiar unfamiliar it opens up the possibilities of wider debates for reforms. There is a need to go beyond the carefully cultivated corporate image and engage with actual corporate practices and consider their impact on the lives of people. Organised tax avoidance has real human consequences even though corporate CSR reports remain silent. Consider the case of developing countries which frequently rely upon foreign-aid and loans for economic development. These often come with strings attached, such as “structural adjustment programs”, and dilute the autonomy of local governments (Pilger, 1998). In contrast tax revenues are free from external pressures and are non-returnable. They provide the most durable resource to finance social infrastructure and provide much needed economic and social development to improve the quality of life of millions of people. For example, in mineral rich Tanzania (mentioned above) more than half of its 40 million population lives on less than US$1 a day. The life expectancy is just 51 years. Around 44% of the population is classified as undernourished (Christian-Aid, 2008a, p. 11). Across the world some 969 million people are estimated to survive on less than U$1 a day (Ahmed, Hill, Smith, Wiseman, & Frankenberger, 2007). Nearly 3 billion people, including over 500 million youths (ages 15–24), struggle to survive on less that US$2 a day, considered to be the internationally defined poverty line (United Nations Population Fund, 2005). Whilst the average life expectancy in many western countries is around 80 years, in Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho it is 33, 34 and 36 years, respectively (Population Reference Bureau, 2007). In developing countries, more than 1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. About 1.9 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases and around 1.5 million (or 5000 a day) of the fatalities are children under the age of 5 (Water Aid, 2007). An estimated 774 million adults lack basic literacy skills (UNESCO, 2007). Due to lack of tax revenues, 34 out of 84 countries decreased the share of gross national product (GNP) devoted to education since 1999. 24 out of 105 countries allocated less than 3% of GNP to education. Such problems could be addressed by holding corporations to account and requiring them to pay taxes so that millions of people can receive healthcare, housing, education and other essentials. The consequences of organised tax avoidance affect developed countries too and limit the support that the state can provide to the less well-off, the elderly and the vulnerable. For example, the UK state manages poverty through the provision of a variety of tax credits and social security (Sikka, 2008). Despite huge increases in support in recent years, around 13.2 million people, or 22% of the population, live below the poverty line54 (Oxfam, 2009). Some 2.9 million children live in poverty households (The Times, 18 February 2009). In a league of 21 industrialised nations, measuring child well-being, the UK came last, marginally behind the USA (UNICEF, 2007). The UK state pension is a major source of income for retired citizens, but it is almost the lowest in Europe. An average earner would receive a pension worth just 17% of their salary, compared with an EU average of 57% (The Guardian, 13 November 2007; Mitchell & Sikka, 2006). The state can only provide support if it collects sufficient tax revenues and corporations live up to their promises of responsible and ethical conduct. This paper has argued that the payment of democratically agreed taxes represents a litmus test for claims of social responsibility. The possibilities of social responsibility rest on the alignment of corporate culture with the social expectations that companies will honour their publicly espoused goals. In principle, the state could be mobilised to exert pressure on companies by requiring greater disclosures about corporate strategies for avoiding taxes and changing the nature of corporations so that diverse social groups are represented on company boards. This could stimulate public debates and even check some excesses, but is unlikely to shed light on the systemic origins of the tendency to avoid taxes, nor make the tax avoidance industry go away. In any case, within the contemporary neoliberal order, the states compete to attract capital and in that process offer tax holidays, inducements and concession to encourage mobility of capital, which in turn fuels schemes for avoiding taxes. The key issue is the social conflict inherent in the very nature of corporations (Bakan, 2004 and Monbiot, 2000) and requires reflections on the social steering mechanisms that prioritise preoccupation with private accumulation of wealth and render human concerns relatively invisible. Money and power seem to have developed their own logic and have become indifferent to human concerns about producing a just, equitable and open society. By scrutinising organised hypocrisy and persuading companies to honour the commitment to pay taxes opens up a research agenda that requires detailed considerations of the role of the state, neoliberal ideologies, the law, the nature of democracy, the media, institutional structures and nodes of power that give meaning to everyday practices and (re)production of reflective individuals.