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In the interview, Wallaert spoke about the significant taxation changes in Europe, the Brexit, as well as Mazars’ global expansion drive and strategies.
“If I look at the past few years and the current situation and the future, in the past few years we have seen an increase in the tax, because, there were some economies in Europe which were not in very good shape, and therefore a few countries that increased the tax rate. And this has been done in many countries because the state needed to have some revenues.
“I think we have reached a level which is a limit, and now we start to see a decrease in a few countries, a move which we start to see on a regular basis, which happened at the time when you have the so-called ‘country by country reporting’ which is going to lead big groups to disclose the tax they pay in the various countries.
“This is raising for our clients interesting questions, and of course not all questions are answered by the law right now and this is an area where we are working closely with our clients, to make sure that the law is well understood and that it is fully taken into account.
“But this may also lead to a plateau in the tax rate in some countries, and the Brexit will also influence all this.
“What we can say is that there is also the trend that I see more and more for the groups to say ‘we need to have a fair attitude with the tax and we need to pay taxes which are reasonable’. And we at Mazars are deeply involved in that process, saying that we need to have our clients to be reasonable in what they are doing on tax. To avoid the crazy situation where they don’t pay tax in any country of the world and on the back of huge profits, but also to have a good analysis of the tax scheme in each of the country. This is one of the topics on which we are working a lot with the groups and I think they appreciate our view in this respect, to do something which is reasonable for the business community at large, for the countries where the groups operate, and for the individual taxpayer of that country, because it is fair that groups also pay tax.”
“The tax regulator asks us for our views, on any topic, we
Loic Wallaert, partner in France and Advisor to the Group Executive Board, joined Mazars in 1995. He has a significant experience in the audit of large listed international
do that for tax reasons, also for accounting. Clearly we have an open discussion with the tax authorities and they ask us for our views when there is a new tax to be introduced. They like to have a reading by professional tax advisers on new tax legislation in many countries and we are happy to do that and we also have a comprehensive discussion on what is fair, what is the evolution in various countries, and so on.
“So, it’s not exactly lobbying, it’s open discussion with the tax authority – we are happy to answer their questions on the general landscape of the tax world or in Europe.”
“There is this global approach for tax called BEPS (base erosion and profit shifting) there is a worldwide move, not only in Europe, to say there should be more transparency on tax and things should be fair. Now, of course, it would be impossible to fully regulate the world and it’s something which will never happen. We are not going to have an even tax rate in all the countries one day. This is a dream but it’s never going to happen. Let’s be realistic.”
[BEPS refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations. Under the inclusive framework, over 100 countries and jurisdictions are collaborating to implement the BEPS measures and tackle BEPS.]
“But there is more and more transparency on this, as BEPS is becoming a huge issue and OECD is looking at that, everybody is looking at that. I don’t think we are still there. Tax is still an incentive for corporations, there is still use for that. But there is a move for more transparency and fairness. Through Praxity, the global alliance of independent firms, Mazars is one of the key players, we can help clients to say what is the limit between something which is going too far and something which is more reasonable.
“We are well positioned, and based on what we see in all the countries, we consider where to position the customer in terms of tax rate.”
“There will always be tax difference, because, there is a move to more harmonisation, but there will always be a different thing. When I say ‘tax’, it can be VAT, customs, income tax, it’s a huge spectrum.
“There is a real push to harmonise taxation, but it will take time. And that’s why at Mazars we clearly are a tax practice with a presence all over the world and this is one of the strengths of Mazars too. We gather our tax people on a regular basis, to make sure that we share the vision of a common market, and the direction of where we are going, and exchange a lot on a regular basis to make sure that we can help our clients, being fully aware about the moves that are going to come in 2-3 years.
“On international tax we have a lot of people working on transfer pricing because this is also a very significant issue and therefore they gather frequently because transfer pricing is a fully international topic. We are one firm operating in 77 countries, we are all partners, and that helps because we work together as a team, even though we are not in the same country.”