US CEOs Say International Tax System Needs Reform; Internationally Competitive System must be a Top Priority, PwC Finds

New York – May 1, 2014— More than 8 in ten (81 percent) of US CEOs agree that the current international tax system is in need of reform, and two-thirds  (67 percent ) of US CEOs say that creating a more internationally competitive and efficient tax system must be a top government priority. These findings represent the views of 162 US-headquartered CEOs of the 1344 global CEOs interviewed for a new PwC paper, Tax strategy and corporate reputation: Building trust and growth, which is based on PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey.

US CEOs express a higher level of concern regarding the need for changes to the international tax system than their peers globally, with this sentiment shared by only 65 percent of all CEOs surveyed around the world.

"It is clear from these survey results that there is a strong interest among US CEOs in reforming US tax laws to promote economic growth and make the US more competitive,” says Mark Mendola, Vice Chairman and Tax Leader of PwC US.

Two-thirds of US CEOs (67 percent) ranked creating a more internationally competitive and efficient tax system first among three top government priorities; with ensuring financial sector stability and access to affordable capital ranking second (56 percent); and improving the country's infrastructure (51 percent) ranking third.

Almost two-thirds of both US CEOs and CEOs globally (65 percent and 63 percent, respectively) agree that government tax policies and the competitiveness of local tax regimes are key factors in where they operate. 

“US companies face a challenging global marketplace that is highly competitive. US government officials may be well advised to consider the risk to future job creation if US tax policies continue to be less pro-growth than those of our foreign counterparts,” says Mr. Mendola.

Other key findings:

  • US CEOs are concerned about the ability of elected officials in Washington to bridge their differences and enact meaningful tax reform legislation. Only 3 percent of US CEOs say government has been effective in creating a more internationally competitive and efficient tax system, compared to 21 percent globally.
  • More than 8 in 10 (81 percent) of US CEOs, compared to 70 percent of CEOs globally, are concerned about rising tax rates.  The US already has the highest statutory corporate tax rate in the world.
  • US CEOs are far more skeptical of the likelihood that sufficient consensus can be reached among members of the OECD and other multinational organizations to achieve substantial reform of the international tax system in the next couple of years than CEOs globally. Only 7 percent of US CEOs agreed this can be achieved, compared with 27 percent of CEOs globally.
  • Only one third (33 percent) of US CEOs – in contrast to 59 percent of CEOs globally -- agreed that their companies should be required to publish the revenues, profits, and tax paid for each territory in which they operate.  Another 36 percent of US CEOs disagreed with this statement and the remainder did not express a view.
  • Only 44 percent of US CEOs agreed that tax authorities should freely share tax information around the world. This is less of concern for CEOs globally, with 58 percent agreeing that such information should be shared.

Regarding the last two points,  Mr. Mendola explains, “The differing survey results on publishing financial and tax data may reflect the extent to which US companies have experience with disclosure --such as the Dodd-Frank rules and FIN 48 -- and the extent to which US companies appear to have been the targets of other governments. US CEOs may fear that overly broad disclosure of taxpayer information would lead to misinterpretation and increase the risk of double taxation.  US CEOs may also be concerned that the sharing of tax information by tax authorities could result in disclosures of operational information that might benefit foreign competitors.”

PwC’s 17th Annual Global CEO Survey aims to inform and stimulate the debate on how businesses are facing today’s major challenges. PwC conducted 1,344 interviews with CEOs in 68 countries, with 162 US CEOs interviewed across a range of industries.  A list of the key US tax findings can be found here.

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