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To Increase Corporate Transparency, Denmark is Making Companies' Tax Records Available Online

BY Julia Wetherell | Friday, January 11 2013

Skat, the Danish taxation portal.

A new database will make corporate tax records available to the public in Denmark, the result of legislation passed this summer that called for greater transparency in the Danish business sector. The database is the latest in a series of online transparency practices implemented by the Danish government.

Hosted on Skat, an official online tax information portal, the database will provide figures for the past year of corporate taxation — notably, which companies have not paid taxes. A flat rate of 25 percent on income is imposed on Danish corporations, yet up to 68 percent did not pay corporate taxes over the past year. There are some legitimate reasons for a company to be exempt from paying taxes — such as declaring a deficit — and some corporations have spoken out against the database. A spokesperson for Dansk Industri maintained that making these figures public will create confusion and mistrust:

“Tax rules are deeply complicated and the tax database will only foster more myths when they are presented without explanation. It can be completely normal, and even beneficial to society, that some businesses do not pay taxes for several years.”

In an editorial last month in Berlingske [Danish], the country’s tax minister asserted that the government is not trying to shame the corporate sector, but rather bring accountability to those companies that have evaded taxation illegitimately. The tax database follows a major Danish open data initiative, announced this fall, that will make all government data available for public reuse; over the next two years, geographic, land and business ownership, and housing data will become available to developers.

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