Benchmarking #Googletax – 2% in the UK?

The Tax Justice Network has just released a new analysis of Google’s UK tax position. Rather than speculate on the nature of the deal reached with the HMRC, the UK tax authority, we simply compare the outcome to the stated aim of policymakers, and the common feeling of the public: namely, the alignment of taxable profit with the location of actual economic activity.

As we’ve written, repeatedly, the observed degree of misalignment is a product of current international tax rules – because it is based on the logic-free approach that each entity within a multinational group be treated as if it were a separate profit-maximising company. The only viable solution is to treat firms such as Google in accordance with the economic reality that they are unitary firms: that is, they have a common global management which takes the decisions, and it is at this level only that profit is maximised, and tax liabilities should be assessed.

Once that decision is made, what remains is to apportion the global profits as tax base between countries – which could of course, and should, be done on the basis of the location of real economic activity. Where this system is already in place (for example among the states of the US, the provinces of Canada and the cantons of Switzerland), the common measures used include sales; employment (wage bill and staff headcount); and (tangible) assets.  The European Commission’s long-standing proposal for intra-EU apportionment is an equally-weighted combination of the three, while the Canadian formula is simpler: half sales, half wages.

Here’s the basis for the calculation. [Until such time as there is public country-by-country reporting of consistent data, such an exercise depends on some digging and some judgment calls.]

Sales

Google Inc’s most recent 10K filing (and their last, having become Alphabet Inc), includes a breakdown of revenues by major market: the USA, UK and the rest of the world. UK revenues for 2014 were $6.483 billion.

There is one puzzle here. We tried to check the figure with Google UK’s accounts, and found that the company has simply not reported it. The relevant line from the accounts is ‘turnover’, which is defined in the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK as follows:

“The amounts derived from the provision of goods and services after deduction of:

(a) trade discounts;

(b) value added tax; and

(c) any other taxes based on the amounts so derived.”

When we look at Google UK’s accounts to June 2015 (p.12), however, it turns out that they’ve defined it as something completely different:

“Turnover represents the amount of fee payable in respect of services provided during the period to Google Inc., Google Ireland Limited and Nest Europe Limited. The Company recognises revenue in accordance with service agreements.”

Rather than the Google Inc.-reported $6.5bn of sales (or £4.6bn, give or take), this measure is much smaller – around £1.2bn. This is broken down specifically in the notes to the financial statements (p.15), showing that around a quarter is a payment from the US for R&D, and three quarters from Ireland for marketing and services.

For apportionment purposes, it is sales by the group, within the jurisdiction that matter (so the claim that they are technically made by a different part of the group doesn’t enter); but we include this UK ‘turnover’ in some of the analysis below for comparison.

Tangible assets

Tangible assets – the stuff you can touch, and know the location of – are in the books of both Google UK and Google Inc., albeit somewhat differently expressed due to the inevitable differences in accounting standards. For the UK, we have ‘Tangible assets’; for the Inc, ‘Property and equipment, net’.

Employment

Employment is straightforward in one aspect, and currently impossible in the other. For headcount, the data are each in set of accounts (the only possible complication is that Google UK accounts shows 2329 staff, while the company told the UK’s parliamentary Public Accounts Committee that they have more than 4,000. Busy hiring since July, it would seem).

Wage bill is a different matter. The costs are broken out for Google UK in note 6 to the accounts, while in the US accounts they are amalgamated under business headings (R&D; sales and marketing; general and administrative; and ‘cost of revenues’). We wrote to Alphabet Inc to ask for the global total, but have had no reply at all – not even a confirmation of receipt – so we’re left with headcount.

Profit

Finally, we take Google UK’s ‘Profit on ordinary activities before tax’, and Google Inc’s ‘Income from continuing operations before income taxes’, being in each case the relevant variable used to show tax reconciliation.

To get to 2014 figures for the UK, we are required to assume that activity was constant over the 18-month period covered in the accounts to 30 June 2015. On that basis, we scale the relevant values by 2/3. In addition, we convert the sterling figures to dollars using the prevailing exchange rate at 31 December 2014.

Benchmarking Google UK

We proceed in three steps. First, we show the proportion of each measure of activity for Google, Inc which relates to Google UK. Next, we show the implied volume of UK profit for 2014. Finally, we calculate potential tax implications.

The first table shows that for any of the measures of economic activity, Google UK’s share of the global, Google Inc total is much higher than its share of pre-tax profit: from 2.6% to 9.8% of activity, compared to just 0.64% of profit. Even if we take Google UK’s definition of turnover at face value, so that the company only provides sales services to Ireland and R&D to the group, the share of profit would still be three times higher. The second table shows the implications for UK-taxable profit, and UK tax revenues, were the misalignment of activity to be eliminated (or a formulary approach adopted). As well as individual factors of activity, we show the results for the two multiple-factor formulae mentioned above, the European and Canadian (using headcount).

The only single factor formula which has been proposed in the current debate is sales, which also shows the most extreme misalignment. Current taxable profits are just 6.5% of that implied by alignment with sales, and the tax bill for 2014 would have come in at £230 million. There are two good reasons against a sales-only basis, however. At a theoretical level, it ignores production entirely, rather than balancing production with consumption as each of the Canadian and European formulae seek to do; and at a practical level, a sales-only basis is likely to be the least valuable in terms of addressing the structural inequality in the allocation of taxing rights to developing countries. [Thanks to Iain Campbell for flagging a typo in this table, now corrected.]

google FA 1The Canadian and European multiple-factor formulae provide a broader base of economic activity against which to consider profit misalignment, and provide a closer range. The implied tax bill for 2014 is £131-£166 million; while current declared profits are 9-11% of the implied tax base.

Were the OECD BEPS process to achieve its aim, or were a unitary tax approach with formulary apportionment adopted, Google could expect to pay in UK tax each year an amount equivalent to or greater than the settlement reached for the entire period back to 2005.

google FA 2

Google UK’s taxable profits for 2014, after the deal with HMRC, are about 10% of what would be expected if their profits were aligned with the UK share of Google’s real economic activity – which is the stated aim of policymakers, and the clear demand of the public. With statutory corporate tax rates set to fall below 20%, the real effective rate may end up lower than 2% of the actual profits attributable to UK economic activity. By any reasonable benchmark, the Google deal highlights the comprehensive failure of international tax rules.

The bigger picture – and the solutions

The Google UK case is not an isolated aberration, but part of a consistent, broader picture. But it is perhaps the paradigmatic example of the failure of international tax rules.

The UK government was so seized of the importance of this particular case that a new measure, the Diverted Profits Tax, was briefed to the media as the ‘Google tax’. The tax authority, HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) dedicated between ten and thirty skilled staff to this one case, every day for six years. And yet the outcome is that the UK will tax just a fraction of the proportionate profit that policymakers have aimed for, and that the public expects.

HMRC has dedicated more capacity to this one case, for six years, than most revenue authorities in developing countries are able to devote in total to all multinationals. There is no prospect that the current rules can be made to work, whether in high-income countries like the UK or in those countries where the revenues are most badly needed to fund basic education, health and public investment.

Previous research from the Tax Justice Network (http://taxjustice.net/scaleBEPS) shows that 25-30% of the global profits of US multinationals are now shifted to low- or zero-tax jurisdictions, away from where the real economic activity takes place – compared to just 5-10% as recently as the 1990s.

This is not about the particularly egregious behavior of one multinational, but about a system that is unfit for purpose. In 2013, the OECD was mandated by the G8 and G20 groups of countries to reform the system under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan. It is already clear that the BEPS plan will not bring the fundamental changes needed.

Policy recommendations

There are two immediate priorities for policymakers.

First, multinationals must be required to publish their country-by-country reporting data, under the new OECD standard, to reveal where their economic activity takes place, where profits are declared and where tax is paid. At a minimum, this will allow the public to hold multinationals and tax authorities accountable for their performance. We welcome the recent support for this original Tax Justice Network policy proposal from European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, and UK Chancellor George Osborne – but that support must now be turned into legislation.

Second, recognising that the OECD BEPS process has failed to meet the scale of the challenge of profit shifting, policymakers should urgently convene an independent, international expert-led process to explore alternatives – starting with the taxation of multinational groups as a unit, rather than maintaining the current pretence of individual entities within a group maximising profit individually. This will allow full consideration of formulary apportionment approaches, including as recommended by the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT); and detailed analysis of possible practical steps to move towards a functioning system. Such a process would sit well as the first major responsibility of an intergovernmental tax body, as recommended by the majority of developing country governments and by global civil society at the Addis Financing for Development meeting in 2015.

And here’s one more to ponder, as Jolyon Maugham flagged the other day and the Financial Times (£) has picked up: will public country-by-country reporting be enough, or should we have corporate tax returns in the public domain?

Will the patent box break BEPS?

The UK has successfully defended the ‘patent box’ against the charge that it is a major avenue for multinational corporate tax abuse.  Now everybody wants one, even though the evidence suggests that only multinationals will benefit.

Will countries take the last chance for productive cooperation offered by BEPS; or will the patent box end up as the paradigmatic case of rich countries ‘competing’ themselves down (and taking developing countries with them)?

[I’m grateful to Prof. Sol Picciotto, TJN senior adviser and coordinator of the BEPS Monitoring Group, for flagging this issue, and the Tax Notes coverage referred to, and for commenting on a draft.]

Patent box - montage from Dreamtimes original images

The magic of the patent box (montage from Dreamtimes original images)

Where things stand

The term ‘patent box’ is being used more widely than for patent incentives alone, to reflect a range of preferential tax treatments for intellectual property (IP).  Such preferential regimes fall under Action 5 of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan, which aims to ‘Counter harmful tax practices more effectively, taking into account transparency and substance’, requiring inter alia ‘substantial activity for any preferential regime’.

The first Action 5 report suggests three helpful questions for considering whether a preferential regime such as the patent box is harmful:

  • Does the tax regime shift activity from one country to the country providing the preferential tax regime, rather than generate significant new activity?
  • Is the presence and level of activities in the host country commensurate with the amount of investment or income?
  • Is the preferential regime the primary motivation for the location of an activity?

In general, pre-BEPS patent box regimes would yield the answers ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Yes’: that is, they are indeed ‘harmful’.

But when BEPS got underway and a number of countries saw their measures to attract profit-shifting come under increasing pressure, the UK led a vigorous defence of the patent box (supported by other then-users, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain).

Eventually, however, the UK was forced to give a little ground, in the face of some combination of the logic of the BEPS process, in the initiation of which the UK had played a significant role, and pressure from Germany, where finance minister Schäuble has been an implacable opponent.

As Ajay Gupta’s handy piece in Tax Notes International ($) explains, Anglo-German agreement in November 2014 followed the OECD’s September 2014 paper looking at three possible approaches to requiring ‘substantial economic activity’ in relation to the patent box:

  1. Value creation (tax benefits apply only if specific criteria for development activities taking place in the jurisdiction are met);
  2. Transfer pricing (the UK’s preferred approach, requiring the assessment of functions, assets and risks);  and
  3. Nexus (the OECD’s preference, limiting ‘tax benefits to the fraction of IP income equal to the ratio of qualifying research expenditures to aggregate expenditures incurred to develop the IP asset’).

Two things about the OECD’s preference are striking. First, what it means: that even with the BEPS context of defending the arm’s length principle and separate accounting against alternatives such as unitary taxation with formulary apportionment, the OECD came out clearly against relying only on a transfer pricing approach to IP. As critics such as the BEPS Monitoring Group have pointed out, allocating profits according to ‘functions, assets and risks’ is inherently subjective and discretionary, so liable to abuse and likely to produce conflict.

Second, the OECD paper set the context for the UK to retreat, at least a little. The Anglo-German compromise, which was immediately taken up by the OECD, was a modified nexus approach: nexus, but as Gupta puts it, ‘allowing a taxpayer to increase its qualifying expenditures above its self-incurred research expenditures by up to 30 percent, a so-called uplift, to reflect expenditures for research activities outsourced to related parties and IP acquisition costs.’ The UK also bought some time, with June 2016 the last date to introduce new, non-conforming provisions, and June 2021 the date for their elimination, as well as some opportunities to ‘grandfather’ existing provisions.

It should also be pointed out that the BEPS project is likely to propose only a toothless monitoring mechanism, through the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices. This consists of government representatives, and operates in total secrecy. The Forum has been in existence for some 15 years and has been largely ineffective – not surprising, as governments have little incentive to oppose a tax break which they themselves support, or might want to introduce. The ‘nexus’ test will require companies to introduce a ‘track and trace’ procedure to prove their expenditures, but this will presumably be checked only by the country providing the tax break. This is a recipe for sweetheart deals as we have already seen with Ireland’s tax breaks for Apple and others, and the Lux Leaks revelations.

Where things are headed

Gupta, and in a related piece ($) his colleague Marty Sullivan, identify the major impacts of the UK-German agreement. Above all, the patent box has been established as a ‘winning’ BEPS strategy: that is, as a mechanism to attract profit-shifting which is acceptable.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that there is now a stampede to introduce such tax breaks, each one tailored slightly differently.

Current providers already include Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Spain and of course the UK. Italy is introducing one (which will especially benefit sectors such as luxury goods and fashion), as well as Switzerland (presumably aimed at watches and cuckoo clocks). There is now also active discussion in the United States about joining the bandwagon. As Gupta puts it:

Don’t look now, but the United States just signaled its willingness to enter a race with the European Union for attracting technology investment — a race that will surely end with multinational enterprises walking away with the top prize. As EU jurisdictions fall over each other to adopt patent box regimes and the OECD seems ready to endorse a modified nexus approach for testing the validity of these regimes, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s international tax reform working group has recommended the enactment of its own preferential structure for taxing intellectual property income.

Sullivan, meanwhile, reviews the latest academic research carried out for the European Commission. His conclusion? With my emphasis:

Before Congress adopts a multibillion-dollar tax incentive like a patent box, it should have some inkling as to whether it is effective at increasing research. So far the evidence is very sparse, and what little evidence does exist is not favorable. Yes, a U.S. patent box would be likely to increase patent registrations in the United States. But in most cases that would just be legal maneuvering without any corresponding increase in the stuff we really want: scientists doing research and inventors inventing inside our borders.

While the BEPS Action Plan reflects the need for countries to coordinate further to avoid such an outcome, the modified nexus approach simply confirms the futile notion of ‘competition’ on tax, locking in a race to the bottom. As the BEPS Monitoring Group noted presciently in February:

The OECD approach will simply legitimize ‘innovation box’ regimes and hence supply a legal mechanism for profit shifting, encouraging states to provide such benefits to companies. It will be particularly damaging to developing countries, which may be used as manufacturing platforms, while their tax base will be drained by this legitimized profit-shifting. Such measures should simply be condemned and eliminated.

Last chance saloon

All is not yet lost. The OECD has not finally committed to the modified nexus approach, and the US has not yet taken the step to become a patent box ‘competitor’, which would surely make any global step back impossible in the short-medium term at least.

What would it take for the rich countries to save themselves from the more aggressive struggle for each others’ tax base that BEPS was supposed to redress? Or to  limit the extent to which international rules support developing country revenue losses (which are indeed substantial)?

Well, the fine details are still under discussion at the OECD: What chance a piece of genuine international leadership from the UK or US, or a rethink by Germany or others on the acceptability of modified nexus versus complete elimination? 

International commission calls for corporate tax reform

When we look back, might today be the day that momentum swung decisively against current international tax rules? An independent commission made up of leading international economists, development thinkers and tax experts (see graphic) has called for a radical overhaul of international rules for corporate taxation.   ICRICT declaration commissioner stirip

There are six main recommendations, set out below. Taken together, it’s possible that they will provide the basis for the kind of comprehensive reworking of tax rules that the G20 and G8 signally failed to deliver when they allowed the OECD mandate on BEPS (corporate tax Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting) to be watered down to a tweaking of the current system. Here’s the start of the Commission’s press release:

Trento, IT – Today, the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) launched a global declaration calling for an overhaul of the outdated international corporate tax system and demanding broad, sweeping changes in the current rules and governing institutions. The declaration will be discussed later today by a panel of ICRICT commissioners at the Trento Festival of Economics in Trento, Italy beginning at 5pm CET.

“Multinational corporations act and therefore should be taxed as single and unified firms – It is time for our leaders to be bold and recognize the legal fiction of the separate entity principle,” said Joseph Stiglitz, professor and Nobel Prize winning economist. “During the transition, leading developed nations should impose a global minimum corporate tax rate to stop the race to the bottom.”

So far, the media coverage has been impressive – from Handelsblatt, La Repubblica and Le Monde, to Reuters, CNN and the Wall St Journal. With the launch event about to get underway, more is likely to follow. [Update: more in the Guardian – thanks Rhiannon, and a cracking write-up in the Financial Times.]

Drawing on expert consultations held in New York in March this year, the ICRICT Declaration (pdf) contains recommendations for reform in six areas:

  1. Tax multinationals as single firms
  2. Curb tax competition
  3. Strengthen enforcement
  4. Increase transparency
  5. Reform tax treaties
  6. Build inclusivity into international tax cooperation

I can only recommend reading the full piece, but a few points stand out.

  • Unitary taxation: States should ‘reject the artifice’ of current separate accounting, and tax MNEs as a single unit, apportioning profit among the jurisdictions in which they operate according to the relative scale of their economic activity in each.
  • Public country-by-country reporting: States should make country-by-country reports (of MNEs’ economic activity, profits and tax) available to the public within 30 days of filing.
  • Public beneficial ownership: states should include the names of ultimate beneficial owners (the warm-blooded type) in public corporate registries.

Following the IMF paper showing how developing countries appear to lose around three times as much revenue as OECD members (1.7% of GDP, or more than $200 billion), the pressure is really on the BEPS process to deliver wider progress.

At present, despite the best efforts of OECD staff working on Action Point 11, it remains unclear if the final BEPS recommendations will include even sufficient transparency measures to allow the tracking of progress.

Politically, it seems that there was a victory before BEPS began for those who did not wish to see the rules opened up more widely; and some further success within the process, not least in terms of preventing (thus far) public reporting of country-by-country disclosures.

But if leading opinion continues to sway towards seeing the current approach as part of the problem, and the resulting process opens up the entire basis of international tax rules, it may turn out to have been a pyrrhic victory indeed.

Full disclosure: TJN is one of the organisations that helped to establish ICRICT, and I’m a member of the preparatory group – but nobody should imagine the commissioners have anything but carefully developed personal views on these issues. 

Four Futures for International Tax Rules

This post was first published on Views from the Center.

Consensus on the reform of international tax rules may be splintering under the combined pressures of post-crisis austerity and revelations about cut-throat tax ‘competition’ (see my discussion on thishere). In light of this, I sketch out four possible directions for international rules and one major trend common to all, and then assess the likely implications for developing countries.

1. Staying the BEPS course

The Base Erosion and Profit Shifting initiative (BEPS), led by the OECD at the behest of the G-8 and G-20 countries, aims to create better alignment between multinational profits and the location of their actual economic activity. The OECD’s remit, set out in a detailed action plan, is to deliver progress in a set of largely discrete areas to make the current system function better.

The BEPS approach rests on a commitment to “arm’s length pricing” (ALP) for transactions among members of the same multinational group, which is intended to give rise in turn to the real (market-equivalent) distribution of profit across the group. Setting aside whether this is an economically sensible way of looking at a group of related parties with common control, the approach simply may not be consistent with the aim – there is no evidence to suggest that ALP, if effective, would necessarily align profit with economic activity.

The UK’s proposed ‘diverted profits tax’ embodies the challenge for BEPS. Despite playing an important role in bringing BEPS into being, the UK government’s frustration with the inability of ALP to deliver politically acceptable taxation of major multinationals has led it to take a quite different tack: in effect, to require explicitly some degree of alignment of profits and activity (sales).

Will leading states maintain their commitment to the OECD approach? The answer may depend on a return to stronger economic performance, and the easing of broader fiscal pressure. Continuing anaemic growth may lead to continuing political pressure and proliferation of work-around measures like the Google tax that cut across the ALP by requiring some alignment of profits and activity.

2. A bigger fix for BEPS

A more consensual future for BEPS can also be envisaged (hat tip to a necessarily anonymous official at a major ministry of finance), involving a rather broader fix but maintaining the fundamental nature of the current system.

This would involve countries signing up to three basic principles, which it has been suggested could eliminate 90 percent of the BEPS problem in one stroke:

  • A common tax base (so there is no incentive for arbitrage on the base)
  • Minimum tax rates (limiting, though not eliminating, the incentive for arbitrage on rates)
  • Elimination of preferential regimes (such as the patent box)

This would require a substantial shift in perceptions of the problem. Since some policymakers see this type of harmonization as a threat to sovereignty, progress seems likely only if such a view is eclipsed by the perception of tax ‘competition’ as the greater threat.

3. Unitary tax revolution

The most dramatic change conceivable would involve broad agreement to adopt the major alternative to the ALP, which is unitary taxation with formulary apportionment. In other words, the new approach would take the multinational group as the unit for taxation purposes, rather than individual companies within it, and apply a formula based on the location of economic activity to apportion the group’s tax base between different jurisdictions, where each may apply whatever level of tax they choose.

Given this approach is explicitly designed to align profits with economic activity, progress towards the agreed aim of the BEPS initiative is highly likely, and would benefit lower-income countries. While pressure for lower rates might build over time, the increase in tax sovereignty – the ability to make policy changes that matter – would remain.

However, political opposition has hindered the prospect of a global agreement to rip up the rules and start afresh. EU attempts to move towards an apportionment basis under the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base project appear stalled, and major powers like the US (despite its largely positive experience using unitary taxation among its own states), and the vast bulk of the multinational and accounting sectors continue to oppose, rendering a revolution unlikely in the medium term at least.

4. Unitary tax evolution

A more likely scenario is one where the current system evolves gradually towards something more consistent with unitary taxation (UT). There are two main, complementary channels through which this could occur.

First, continuing dissatisfaction with the ALP – and the sense that developing countries’ concerns are not well reflected in BEPS – may give rise to a breakaway. Developing countries will soon be able to examine country-by-country reporting from multinationals operating in their jurisdiction, which will highlight the misalignment between the shares of activity hosted and shares of profits declared.

A single developing country or a regional grouping could reach a tipping point and decide to switch unilaterally to taking as tax base some formulary apportionment of the global profit. The demonstration effect could be powerful and drive others to follow suit.

The second channel is even more gradual. It involves the ongoing growth in the diversity of methods allowed under OECD rules and the use of methods that include some profit attribution on the basis of activity, as distinct from any ALP or other pricing decision.

Between the two channels, the world seems likely – ceteris paribus – to move at least a little further in this direction over time. Again, this scenario would offer the possibility of greater tax sovereignty for many developing countries.

Development prospects and a common trend

Lower-income countries obtain, on average, much smaller shares of GDP in corporate tax revenue. In no small part this is due to a combination of limits to states’ technical capacity and negotiating power with large multinationals, and to the incentives that the international system provides for profit-shifting. As such, the four futures can be considered in terms of their likely impact on these two factors.

Source (columns A and B): McNabb & LeMay-Boucher, 2014; data from ICTD Government Revenue Dataset.

The BEPS course (future 1) address specific weaknesses in the rules, which may reduce profit-shifting incentives somewhat, but at a broader level will do little to diminish the complexity of rules that make technical capacity such a constraint. The ‘bigger fix’ (2) offers the possibility of greatly reduced incentives for multinationals, and so could have an appreciable benefit.

The unitary revolution (3) could change the power dynamic for lower-income countries entirely, both in relation to multinationals but also vis-à-vis higher-income countries – but partly for this reason is an implausible scenario. Evolutionary steps towards UT (4), however, seem likely, and have the potential to sharply reduce the importance of capacity constraints and to change the balance of negotiating power also.

In fact, the common trend in all four futures is in this direction. The presence of country-by-country reporting information, now established as OECD standard, provides a simple risk mechanism by allowing a check on the profit misalignment of each taxpayer. Any tax authority requiring this information from multinationals will be in a position, regardless of the range of possible outcomes under ALP (or directly under UT), to set effective limits on the extent of profit misalignment that they are willing to accept. This has the potential to change the relative negotiating power of even the least well-resourced tax authorities.

Publishing the data would provide a powerful accountability mechanism for both multinationals and tax authorities, in respect of each other and for civil society; but even held privately, this is information that can support substantial change. Not all transparency is equal; in this particular case, information is indeed power.