January 18, 2018 / 5:22 PM / 4 months ago

Denmark's ATP to make fair tax checks on potential partners

COPENHAGEN, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Denmark’s largest investor, pension fund ATP, has begun to make random checks on business partners to avoid becoming entangled in aggressive tax avoidance schemes, its chief financial officer Bo Foged told Reuters.

The move by ATP, the mandatory pension scheme for all Danes, worth more than $120 billion, follows the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers global scandals and efforts by the European Union to make digital giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon pay more in tax.

But some potential new business partners have been reluctant to accept random checks of their tax conditions.

“When you come out and set new, ambitious standards, as we do in this area, then obviously it gives rise to discussions,” Foged said in an interview.

The rules apply to new unlisted investments and bar ATP’s partners such as funds and asset managers from tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.

“We are making a lot of demands that have not been made before,” Foged said. “Our partners obviously have different views on some of the positions we have. Because we are going further than the law requires.”

He said that even though ATP would much prefer to convince reluctant potential business partners to live up to its new rules, it would ultimately be ready to exclude on tax grounds.

“We are not doing this for fun,” Foged said, adding that ATP — Europe’s fourth largest pension fund — sees paying the right tax as its social responsibility.

“We’re convinced this will not cost us money. We think this represents an investment risk,” he said.

“If these kind of investment structures are being disallowed by the authorities then you will not get the yield you thought you would, and the yield you based your investment decision on.”

With the new rules, ATP aims among other things to ensure tax is paid where the value is created, and that no investments are made in jurisdictions that do not meet Common Reporting Standards or that are blacklisted by the European Union.

$1 = 6.0803 Danish crowns Reporting by Teis Jensen; Editing by Catherine Evans

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