Accounting Standards given tongue-in-cheek reform award

The Christian Aid team at the last Alternative Tax Awards ceremony in May.
The Christian Aid team at the last Alternative Tax Awards ceremony in May.

By Ian Dunt

The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has been handed a tongue-in-cheek award from Christian Aid, after winning the charity's Greatest Potential for Tax Reform award.

The Board was handed the Golden Palm this morning at its headquarters in Cannon Street by aid activists.

Campaigners want the Board, which is responsible for drawing up rules covering how companies draw up their annual accounts, to instigate urgent and far-reaching reforms - including forcing companies trading internationally to report profits made and taxes paid in every country where they operate.

Christian Aid estimates that countries in the developing world are deprived of $160 billion annually in lost revenues by companies disguising their tax liabilities.

If used according to current spending patterns, the money could save the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five every year, the group argues.

PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC), KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte & Touche also collected awards, along with the Board.

At the time of writing, none of the 'big four' financial services companies other than PwC replied on the record to's requests for a comment.

But Barry Marshall, PwC's UK head of tax said: "PwC has met with Christian Aid to discuss our shared interest in improving corporate reporting of tax information and indeed subsequently continued this dialogue in writing. We have a common interest to continue to improve corporate reporting of tax information.

"PwC has led the profession in promoting more transparency in tax and wider corporate reporting. We reiterate our willingness to discuss these important matters with Christian Aid and other interested parties."

CDC Group plc and its sole owner, the Department for International Development (Dfid), won the Most Surprising Use of Tax Havens award.

CDC has 72 subsidiaries, of which 40 are in tax havens including Bermuda, Mauritius and the Netherlands Antilles, according to figures Dfid gave to the committee of public accounts last December.

A DfiD spokesperson told "This analysis is both inaccurate and out of date.

"CDC is not depriving poor countries of tax revenues. CDC invests in funds; those funds in turn invest in promising businesses in poor countries. Those businesses are subject to the tax regimes of their respective governments.

"In fact these businesses pay an estimated £250 million of tax and other charges in developing countries each year."

P&O cruises' owner, Carnival, took the Low Tax Rate Achievement award.

Carnival is the world's largest cruise company and employs more than 80,000 people.

Between 2002 and 2008 inclusive, the company paid tax of just $61.7 million on total profits of $4.3 billion, despite following entirely legal practices, Christian Aid said.

Barclays plc won Tax Haven Enthusiast of the Year award due to its subsidiaries in 315 different tax havens, 150 of which are in the Cayman Islands.

Barclays and Carnival failed to comment on their award winning status.

Meanwhile, Bilateral Tax Information Exchange Treaties (TIEAs) took the Most Overhyped Reform of the International Tax System award.

The treaties, which were proposed by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation as an important way of tackling tax dodging, are entirely voluntary and offer "little to nothing" to developed countries, Christian Aid said.

"Using them to get information about a suspected tax dodger from another country is extraordinarily cumbersome and slow, and requires significant resources," the group claimed.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.