Together with Dirk-Jan Koch and Francis Weyzig, I have published an article in the Journal of International Accounting, Auditing and Taxation. The article is about the quality of tax reports by NGOs in the tax avoidance debate.
My main take away from this research is that while the case studies are not perfect, they are a lot better than they sometimes get credit for in the internal debate between tax specialists. A major problem for the case studies is the lack of information about the tax position of specific multinationals. Just to be clear: we identify this as a point that could be improved by companies and governments. To blame researchers for the fact that companies and governments have not published certain information would make little sense (understatement).
In recent years, there have been substantial efforts to combat corporate tax avoidance. These efforts have been propelled in part by mediatized case studies, conducted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other groups, on the tax avoidance practices of multinational enterprises. These case studies have been criticized because they allegedly lack quality, but this criticism has not been assessed academically.
This research seeks to address that gap. It proposes a new methodology to analyze the quality of these case studies systematically. We construct ten indicators related to alleged weaknesses and use these to assess 14 case studies involving Dutch corporate entities. We find that the quality of these case studies is affected negatively by a lack of adequate data. Thus, if companies and governments enhance transparency, this could increase the quality of case studies by NGOs and other groups. In addition to this, we find that the NGOs and other groups themselves can sometimes increase the quality of their case studies by investing in technical expertise and adopting practices that foster objectivity.
The methodology developed for this study could also be of use for other topical debates, such as disclosure requirements and corporate social responsibility reporting. Whereas we were able to address challenges related to internal validity, the external validity of the findings could still be improved by extending the selection of case studies.
Note: the second paragraph is a clarification and was added on 26 July 2020,