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Future of Taxation, Compliance and Regulation - Accountancy firms, financial reporting, corporation tax, personal tax, tax evasion clampdowns

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Article written in 2020, video forecasting these accounting trends made at a KPMG event in 2008 - core messages very similar

Tax rates will converge

Tax rates will continue to converge globally in many sectors and industries as governments compete for global investment. Nations with higher corporate tax rates will see companies shift HQs, factories, offices, research and development. So governments will be forced to keep their own taxation and regulations in step with the global norm.

Global corporations will continue to exploit tax havens

Global corporations will continue to use all kinds of elaborate accounting mechanisms to avoid tax, moving profits from one nation to another, exploiting whatever differences remain, attracting public criticism and resentment in the process.

Expect governments to collaborate in taxing multinationals more effectively

We will see many new regional and global initiatives to ensure that taxes paid to a particular country reflect profits made in that country.

Compliance is dead - not enough in future

Compliance will be the absolute minimum required in future to protect brands and careers.  You can be 100% compliant and still wreck a corporation's future.  

Compliance will keep executives out of prison, but expect many new media stories, where "unethical" practices are revealed, and where companies try to defend themselves by telling everyone the they have fulfilled all regulatory requirements.

There are many examples of this in the past including bribery - not so long ago it was perfectly legal and compliant in some nations for a large company to pay bribes to get things done, and to claim such costs back as a legitimate expense to offset against profits for tax purposes.

So corporations will need to go far beyond mere box-ticking exercise and ask some fundamental questions.

A key test will be whether an action feels right to ordinary people when they hear about it.

Personal taxation in emerging nations will focus on spending not income

In many emerging nations it is easy for people to avoid income tax - for example by not using bank accounts, and relying on cash. That is why we can expect such nations to focus on purchase taxes of various kinds, along with corporation taxes etc.

New drives to tax super-wealthy

50% of the world's wealth is owned by just 1%, and a huge proportion is owned by a rapidly growing number of billionaires, who are hard to track and tax, living semi-nomadic lives with multiple addresses around the world.  Expect great efforts to tax such people more efficiently.

Accountancy firms will be held more accountable themselves

Time and again we have seen huge companies run into major trouble just weeks after being given a clean audit report by a global accounting firm that has spent millions of dollars inspecting the accounts.  How can this be?

Shareholders, customers, suppliers, staff and governments all expect that audits should uncover financial weakness, fraud, deliberate mis-representation, and other financia risks.

Expect much stronger action in future against accountancy firms that are judged to have failed in their duty.

A major issue is that there are very few truly global accounting firms that remain, and a single major scandal could reduce this even further.   When the same firm has audited the same company for many years, all kinds of potential conflicts of interest arise.  

For example, the firm may also be providing consulting services.  Senior team members from the firm may now be on the board.

Complexity of accounting requirements will increase

Every new scandal breeds new layers of regulation and compliance standards for accounting.  Expect ever-increasing accounting burdens on medium to large companies.  

Smart software / digital tools will revolutionise accounting practice

Expect rapid growth of highly innovative companies, providing smart solutions to meet many of these challenges for corporations.  

Partnership and collaboration will be vital

As we have seen in cybersecurity and risk management, even the largest global companies lack sufficient budget to stay ahead of these rapid changes.  The answer is partnership and collaboration.  Hence the growing number of corporate events attended by competitors, all of whom are using the same software systems of platforms.

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