Shareholders urge Amazon to boost tax transparency -FT

The logo of Amazon is seen on the door of an Amazon Books retail store in New York City, US, February 14, 2019. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid

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March 6 (Reuters) – Twenty-four Amazon investors are urging the tech giant to step up transparency in tax disclosures and adopt a new reporting standard, the Financial Times said on Sunday.

Asset managers Nordea, Royal London and several large European and US pension funds are among those pushing for Amazon to issue a transparency report in line with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) tax standard, the newspaper said.

They want to bring a shareholders’ resolution demanding the new standard at the company’s annual meeting this year, it said, citing a letter to be sent this week to the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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“Aggressive tax practices can expose a company and its investors to increased scrutiny from tax authorities, adjustment risks, and increase their vulnerability to changes in tax rules,” the investors said.

These measures come at a time when nations are looking to protect their tax bases from deleterious practices, they added in the letter seen by the FT.

The 100 groups that signed the letter included several environmental, social and governance-focused and religious funds, although not all were investors, the paper said.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the resolution, but pointed to last month’s no-action request when the company barred a similar shareholder proposal.

“The proposal implies exactly the type of ordinary business issues for which resolution should remain with the company’s management and board,” Amazon said.

It would be impractical for shareholders to exercise direct oversight of such issues, it added.

Amazon’s current extensive tax disclosures are in line with US generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”), it said, adding that it has publicly reported tax payments in the United States, Britain, France, Italy and Spain.

A December shareholder proposal by the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Oblate International Pastoral Investment Trust urged Amazon to adopt the new GRI tax standard, and make public breakdowns of financial, tax and worker information by country. read more

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Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill and Clarence Fernandez

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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