Aegon has become the first financial sector company to receive the ‘Tax Transparency Award’ in the Netherlands.
The award is based on the fourth annual Tax Transparency Benchmark published by VBDO, the Dutch association of investors for Sustainable Development. With the tax position of international companies increasingly under scrutiny by politicians, NGOs and the media, the Transparency Benchmark is particularly relevant.
Aegon ended with AMG and Unilever at the top of the benchmark, which was presented on November 22 in Amsterdam. The jury praised Aegon for partially reporting country-by-country information. This is something that not many other companies included in the benchmark are currently doing.
In addition, Aegon provided a detailed description of the implementation of the tax strategy (see Aegon Global Tax Policy). And, the jury emphasized that Aegon scored higher than average on all six 'Good Tax Principles' promoted by the VBDO.
The benchmark shows that Dutch companies are becoming more transparent in relation to their tax policies. "We have seen transparency grow on this issue over the past five years. When we first asked questions at General Meetings of Shareholders in 2013, almost no company was talking about responsible tax. Now more than three-quarters publish on tax policy", said Angélique Laskewitz, director of VBDO.
"In the past few years the Global Tax Function has developed clear guidelines and policies to how we behave as a responsible company with a global reach" Martin Vink, Global Head of Tax said.
"Our Global Tax Policy is linked to our Code of Conduct. It is also aligned with our Responsible Business commitment: to act responsible and to create positive impact for all our shareholders. It is fantastic to learn that our Global Tax Policy which has been developed together with all Aegon's tax functions in the world and may other colleagues, was considered top-notch by the jury of VBDO".
More to be done
The surveyed companies scored on average 39 percent on the six 'Good Tax Principles'. While this was an improvement on the 36 percent average for 2017, the latest average scores were generally below par in the benchmark. Companies also scored poorly on the implementation of the tax strategy, and on monitoring and testing of specific tax risks.
A positive finding what that two-thirds of the businesses reported that paying taxes was part of corporate social responsibility. "VBDO expects companies to consider paying taxes as an integral part of their sustainability policy," Laskewitz said. VBDO has called on investors to include the results of the benchmark in engagement discussions.