Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

Corporate privacy is an oxymoron. Individuals have a right to privacy, which the Supreme Court has recognized at least since Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Warren and Brandeis’ famous defense of the right to privacy (1890) clearly applied only to individuals, because only individuals have the kind of feelings that are affected by invasions of privacy. Corporations are legal entities, and the concept of privacy does not apply to them, as the Supreme Court held in 1906. Thus, any objection to making corporate tax returns public cannot rest on the right to privacy. In fact, corporate returns were made public in 1909, and while this provision was soon repealed, the argument in favor of repeal was not based on privacy but on confidentiality: Disclosure of corporate tax returns, it was said, could give competitors access to confidential information and put the corporation at a competitive disadvantage. The same arguments from confidentiality were made in favor of preventing the publication of advance pricing agreements (APAs), even in redacted form. Thus, in my opinion the question whether the results of country by country reporting (CbC) should be made public has nothing to do with privacy.


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