Shell’s approach to taxes
When we invest in a country or location, we seek to build long-term relationships and develop our business sustainably. We recognise our responsibility towards investors, governments, employees and the local communities we are part of. The taxes we collect and pay represent one of the ways in which we embrace this responsibility.
Our tax strategy is designed to support Shell in delivering its strategic ambitions.
We do this by being committed to compliance, being transparent about our approach to tax and taxes paid and open to dialogue with governments, businesses, investors and civil society.
The Board of Directors of Royal Dutch Shell plc approves our tax strategy, regularly reviews its effectiveness, and maintains a sound system of risk management and internal control. The Executive Vice President Taxation and Controller is responsible for tax matters and provides assurance based on our internal tax control framework. The Board of Directors, or a delegated sub-committee, is updated annually on our tax risks and our adherence to our tax strategy. The Shell Responsible Tax Principles, which have been developed with the B Team, guide decisions on tax matters.
We are committed to compliance. Shell seeks to comply with the letter and the spirit of the tax laws wherever we have a taxable presence and expects to pay tax on profits where the business activity took place. Where offered and appropriate, we apply tax incentives and exemptions.
There can be instances when we interpret tax laws and their application differently from tax authorities and this can lead to disputes. In all cases, we seek to resolve any uncertainty directly with tax authorities, for example through advance tax agreements and a co-operative compliance approach. These offer an opportunity for early resolution, minimising the risk of future disputes. Where necessary, we will seek a clear resolution through the judicial system to test the legal principle of the tax law concerned.
Our tax and finance staff support the filing of tens of thousands of tax returns every year. When we fulfil our tax filing obligations, we aim to adhere to international best practice and aim for accuracy and timeliness.
Our tax control framework, policies and guidelines set out the standards, controls, risk management and assurance that establish boundaries for our tax activities. Our tax control framework also sets out practical guidance for our staff, including the procedures for considering tax risks. Our tax and data systems evolve continuously to deal with the growing demand for information from authorities. External auditors regularly review our tax controls as part of the audit of our financial results.
We do not condone, encourage or support tax evasion. Compliance is embedded in the Shell General Business Principles and the Code of Conduct. Employees, contract staff, and third parties with whom Shell has a business relationship may raise ethical and compliance concerns, anonymously if preferred, through the Shell Global Helpline.
We regularly monitor relevant changes and developments. For example, we review our corporate and financing structures to confirm that our presence in all countries, including low-tax jurisdictions, is grounded in substantive and commercial reasons.
Shell may seek the support of an external adviser where specialist technical expertise is required that is not available in-house, or where additional resources are required.
We strive for an open dialogue on tax matters with governments, policymakers, businesses, investors and civil society. Since 2003, we have taken important steps to be more transparent about the taxes we pay.
Our participation in the development of the B Team Responsible Tax Principles reflects our ambition to align our tax strategy more closely with emerging best practice. Our Tax Contribution Report and future publications aim to demonstrate how we are applying our Responsible Tax Principles.
Open to dialogue
We welcome the opportunity to work with others in areas of shared interest. Our approach to tax considers the interests of relevant stakeholders.
We regularly engage with policymakers to support the development of tax rules and regulations based on sound tax policy principles. Through this, we hope to contribute to the development of fair, effective and stable tax systems.
We also provide input to industry groups and international organisations, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative(EITI), the B Team Responsible Tax Working Group (B Team), and the Business at OECD.
Through engagement with thought leaders, other companies, investors, and civil society, we stay informed of relevant developments. For example, we aim to support governments’ ambitions to achieve contract transparency. We encourage governments to share contracts and licences, in line with the EITI’s revised standard on contract transparency. This requires countries implementing the EITI standard to disclose contracts and licences that are granted, entered into or amended from January 1, 2021. In 2018, we endorsed the B Team Responsible Tax Principles. These were developed by the B Team Responsible Tax Working Group with input from non-governmental organisations. In 2019, we adopted these principles as our own.