Show us your tax, Shell
In May 2014 SOMO and Friends of the Earth released a report called "The Role of Switzerland in Shell's Corporate Structure and Tax Planning". The report showed that between 2001 and 2005 the Dutch-British oil multinational set up a range of subsidiaries in Switzerland, none of which were involved in the production of oil. The report concluded that Shell used Switzerland mainly for 'tax planning purposes' which allowed the company to avoid paying a significant amount of taxes where its activities took place, including in developing countries.
The report found that Shell lacked transparency on the taxes it paid in Switzerland despite claims it was a leader in tax transparency. In response to the findings in the report, Shell did not provide any specific information about their tax payments in Switzerland, nor were any specific questions on its business activities in that country answered.
SOMO and Friends of the Earth Europe called on Shell to give full disclosure of its financial data including tax payments in all countries where Shell is present. This was in anticipation of EU legislation obliging companies to provide so-called ‘country–by-country’ reporting as of January 1st 2016.
“Our research shows a major multinational company with billions of dollars of revenue from operations in developing countries operating secretively in Switzerland with little apparent purpose other than to move revenue away from jurisdictions where it would be taxed. With billions being lost from government budgets every year due to tax avoidance it’s urgent that Shell and other oil companies make public all their accounts, all their payments to governments and stop avoiding tax,” said Paul de Clerk of Friends of the Earth Europe.
According to the report, since at least 2001, Shell had been using Switzerland for tax purposes. In 2005 for example, the company shifted ownership of its brands and trademarks to a Swiss-based subsidiary, Shell Brands International AG. This company was registered in the canton of Zug, a very popular location for multinational corporations.
Read about what else Shell has been up to in our recent feature.
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