Handle with care: Transparency as a means to restore trust in taxation

Hans Gribnau, Albert van Steenbergen

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paperScientific


As a result of the 2008 financial crisis government had to make substantial cuts in public expenditures. Austerity measures can be considered to be one of the explanations behind a decreased confidence in the government. Furthermore, several tax-related scandals and leaks (for example the so-called Panama Papers and Paradise papers) got much media coverage. The message often was that multinational corporations are not paying their fair share, compounding Treasury’s condition, and tax authorities are too cosy in their dealings with these multinationals. As a result, trust in government, the tax administration in particular, the (international) tax system and large (multinational) corporations diminished. Many actors see greater transparency of the tax system as critical to rebuilding trust in the international tax system – disclosure providing information evidencing that multinational corporations pay a fair share of taxes.

Since the demand for increased transparency regards particularly tax authorities, on the one hand, and large corporations, on the other, two types of trust are distinguished. Institutional trust refers to trust in institutions, such as the tax authorities and social or interpersonal trust is about trust in other (corporate) members of society. Since trustworthiness is a prerequisite of trust, we’ll investigate how transparency can promote trustworthiness of tax authorities and multinationals.

The first part this paper offers theoretical considerations on various elements, types, and paradoxes of transparency and trust. Subsequently a brief analysis is made of several recently introduced hard and soft law initiatives which are aimed at greater transparency to promote trustworthiness of tax authorities and multinationals. The second part comprises an exploratory study by the Dutch tax authorities on transparency. This empirical research is focused on the question how the Netherlands Tax and Customs Administration (NTCA) can deal with the increasing demand for transparency towards society. This second part focuses on the subject of transparency in regard to the particular context of tax administration and tax enforcement.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2021


  • Transparency
  • institutional trust
  • social trust
  • country-by-country reporting
  • interpersonal trust
  • rulings
  • Voluntary disclosure
  • mandatory disclosure
  • Trustworthiness
  • multinational corporations
  • tax authorities
  • public country-by-country reporting


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