Corporate tax information to go online

Tax minister says its time for the public to see if businesses are paying their fair share

Plans by the Tax Ministry to establish a website showing the public how much companies pay – or don’t pay – in taxes in Denmark is receiving mixed reviews.

The plan would enable Skat, the national tax agency, to publish information that until now has been confidential about the amount of taxes paid by domestic and multinational companies on a special website. The tax minister, Thor Möger Pedersen (Socialistisk Folkeparti) told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that the move will have a “positive effect on tax payments”.

Recent reports that 30 percent of companies working in Denmark pay zero taxes inspired Pedersen to propose the idea.

While regular taxpayers contribute nearly 360 billion kroner to state coffers each year, corporate payments amount to just over 40 billion kroner, according to one study.

Frank Aaen, a spokesperson for the far-left Enhedslisten party, said the new website will encourage companies to shoulder more of their fair share of the tax burden.

“I have no doubt that open tax lists will help companies and multinationals understand that they should pay their taxes,” Aaen told Politiken newspaper.

Pedersen called the trend over the past decade of companies paying increasingly less in taxes “troubling”.

“Everyone needs help to get Denmark out of the recession,” he told Politiken. “When hardworking employees pay taxes, it is only fair that companies do also."

Pedersen called the new website an effort at transparency.

Both Q8 and McDonald’s, two companies often cited as serious tax evaders, say that they will have no problem complying with the regulations when they take effect later this year.

"If the political decision has been made to make tax information public, we will abide by the law,” Jytte Wolff-Snedorff, a Q8 spokesperson, told Politiken.

Aaen had previously claimed that Q8 has not paid taxes in Denmark for 20 years.

Sara Helweg-Larsen, a spokesperson for McDonald’s, Denmark, said that the company welcomes the transparency the new rules will create, but called for a debate on opening up tax lists.

“For us, this is about the law, for Enhedslisten, it is about an ideology, and the two things need to be separated.”

Businesses are not happy with Pedersen’s idea. Dansk Erhverv, the national chamber of commerce, and Dansk Industri, a business advocacy group, both said the tax website will do much more harm than good.

“This will have a negative effect in terms of attracting new foreign investment and businesses to Denmark,” Bo Sandberg, a Dansk Erhverv economist, told Politiken. “I think these new rules will mean fewer jobs.”

Dansk Industri said that the new rule sends the wrong signal.

“There is currently a negative mood among businesses in general,” said Lene Nielsen, a legal advisor to Dansk Industri. “We would rather have an environment that creates a foundation for businesses to come to this country.”

Socialistisk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten have pushed for many years for a way to get to the money that they believe multinational corporations owe in taxes.

Sandberg said the idea that multinationals are not paying taxes is just wrong

“Looking at the big picture, it is a hoax that the multinationals do not pay their taxes,” Sandberg told Politiken. “Overall, they are some of the companies that contribute most corporate taxes in Denmark.”

Sandberg says along with supplying jobs, multinational companies also contribute significantly to education, healthcare and infrastructure in a community.

“Tax payments are only a small part of their social contribution,” she said.