Tax reform is more urgent than you think. The implications of “The Disappearing PLC” an article in the October 2014 issue of Management Today make this clear. To say it is food for thought is to significantly understate the case.
The article highlights the fact that, since 1997, the Wall Street high, public listings have declined 50% in the USA and UK, 23% in Europe, and 5% in Asia. It goes on to say “Few observers doubt that something fundamental is afoot – and it’s structural rather than cyclical. In other words it is not a blip.” It explains this is driven by two converging forces.
The first is economic. Here the article states, “The publicly quoted company essentially looks like a creature of the 20th century. Modern business is cash generative far earlier and much less capital intensive then even half a century ago. The need to mobilise outside sources of capital is so much less.”
The second is managerial or ideological. The article cites concern about “public companies fading innovation mojo” and quotes Professor Clayton Christenson “who has the unofficial title of the world’s most influential management guru” as fretting that “companies anaemic appetite for investor capital is further evidence of this of just this, boding ill for US jobs and growth.”
Another cause of this decline that the article does not specifically identify is what can only be described as “merger mania.” With public companies like Cadbury being subsumed into organisation’s like Kraft Foods it seems inevitable that the number of listed companies must shrink. This compounds the apparent the apparent dearth of new listings that the article bemoans.
Add to this the points I make in “The Democracy Delusion” about industrial scale tax avoidance (epitomised by companies like Amazon and Starbucks making profits of billions in the UK and paying no taxes), and it becomes abundantly clear that this has massive implications for governments. How are they going to replace shrinking tax revenues? Only last week there was an item on the news about tax revenues in the UK being less than forecast!
All this makes makes tax reform more urgent than you think. It imperative that we revisit and reform our national tax systems – URGENTLY. If we don’t we will be walking blindly into socio-economic and political crisis that will by far exceed any of the major calamities of history in scale. That is why I wrote the book: to try to offer a solution that will help prevent this. Of course it does not have all the answers, but at least my suggestion that companies should not pay tax at all is a provocative starting point for a very important discussion.