AstraZeneca PLC – Annual report – 31 December 2018
Financial Review (extract)
Our approach to managing tax risk is integrated with our broader business risk management and compliance framework. Our approach is to manage tax risks and tax costs in a manner consistent with applicable regulatory requirements and with shareholders’ best long-term interests, taking into account operational, economic and reputational factors. We manage tax risks in the context of substantive business transactions.
Audit Committee Report (extract)
Significant financial reporting issues considered by the Committee in 2018 (extract)
Financial Statements (extract)
Estimates and judgements (extract)
The preparation of the Financial Statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles requires management to make estimates and judgements that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities at the date of the Financial Statements and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ from those estimates.
Judgements include matters such as the determination of operating segments while estimates focus on areas such as carrying values, estimated useful lives of Intangible assets, potential obligations and Contingent consideration.
The accounting policy descriptions set out the areas where judgements and estimates need exercising, the most significant of which are revenue recognition, research and development (including impairment reviews of associated Intangible assets), business combinations and Goodwill (and Contingent consideration arising from business combinations), litigation and environmental liabilities, employee benefits and taxation. Financial risk management policies are detailed in Note 27.
The current tax payable is based on taxable profit for the year. Taxable profit differs from reported profit because taxable profit excludes items that are either never taxable or tax deductible or items that are taxable or tax deductible in a different period. The Group’s current tax assets and liabilities are calculated using tax rates that have been enacted or substantively enacted by the reporting date.
Deferred tax is provided using the balance sheet liability method, providing for temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and the amounts used for taxation purposes. Deferred tax assets are recognised to the extent that it is probable that taxable profit will be available against which the asset can be utilised. This requires judgements to be made in respect of the availability of future taxable income.
No deferred tax asset or liability is recognised in respect of temporary differences associated with investments in subsidiaries and branches where the Group is able to control the timing of reversal of the temporary differences and it is probable that the temporary differences will not reverse in the foreseeable future.
The Group’s Deferred tax assets and liabilities are calculated using tax rates that are expected to apply in the period when the liability is settled or the asset realised based on tax rates that have been enacted or substantively enacted by the reporting date.
Accruals for tax contingencies require management to make judgements of potential exposures in relation to tax audit issues. Tax benefits are not recognised unless the tax positions will probably be sustained based upon management’s interpretation of applicable laws and regulations and the likelihood of settlement.
Once considered probable of not being sustained, management reviews each material tax benefit to assess whether a provision should be taken against full recognition of the benefit on the basis of potential settlement through negotiation and/or litigation. Accruals for tax contingencies are measured using the single best estimate of likely outcome approach.
Further details of the estimates and assumptions made in determining our recorded liability for transfer pricing contingencies and other tax contingencies are included in Note 29 to the Financial Statements.
29 Commitments and contingent liabilities (extract)
Where tax exposures can be quantified, an accrual is made based on best estimates and management’s judgement. Details of the movements in relation to material tax exposures are discussed below. As accruals can be built up over a long period of time but the ultimate resolution of tax exposures usually occurs at a point in time, and given the inherent uncertainties in assessing the outcomes of these exposures (which sometimes can be binary in nature), we could, in future periods, experience adjustments to these accruals that have a material positive or negative effect on our results in any particular period.
AstraZeneca faces a number of audits and reviews in jurisdictions around the world and, in some cases, is in dispute with the tax authorities. The issues under discussion are often complex and can require many years to resolve. Accruals for tax contingencies require management to make estimates and judgements with respect to the ultimate outcome of a tax audit, and actual results could vary from these estimates.
Transfer pricing and other international tax contingencies
The total net accrual included in the Group Financial Statements to cover the worldwide exposure to transfer pricing audits is $212m, a decrease of $23m compared with 2017 mainly due to a reduction in accruals for transfer pricing contingencies as a result of the conclusion of tax authority review.
Management continues to believe that AstraZeneca’s positions on all its transfer pricing audits and disputes are robust, and that AstraZeneca is appropriately provided, including the assessment where corresponding relief will be available. For transfer pricing audits where AstraZeneca and the tax authorities are in dispute, AstraZeneca estimates the potential for reasonably possible additional losses above and beyond the amount provided to be up to $357m (2017: $30m; 2016: $184m) including
associated interest. However, management believes that it is unlikely that these additional losses will arise. It is possible that some of these contingencies may reduce in the future to the extent that any tax authority challenge is unsuccessful, or matters lapse following expiry of the relevant statutes of limitation resulting in a reduction in the tax charge in future periods.
Other tax contingencies
Included in the tax accrual is $730m relating to a number of other tax contingencies, a decrease of $201m mainly due to releases following expiry of statute of limitations and on conclusion of tax authority review, exchange rate effects, partially offset by the impact of an additional year of transactions relating to contingencies for which accruals had already been established. For these tax exposures, AstraZeneca estimates the potential for reasonably possible additional losses above and beyond the amount provided to be up to $253m (2017: $nil; 2016: $nil) including associated interest. It is, however, possible that some of these contingencies may reduce in the future if any tax authority challenge is unsuccessful or matters lapse following expiry of the relevant statutes of limitation resulting in a reduction in the tax charge in future periods.
In addition to the above tax exposures, the European Commission (EC) announced in 2017 that it had opened a State aid investigation into the UK’s Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) Group Financing Exemption. The EC’s decision is anticipated in 2019 although any decision would be subject to appeal.
Timing of cash flows and interest
It is not possible to estimate the timing of tax cash flows in relation to each outcome. However, it is anticipated that a number of significant disputes may be resolved over the next one to two years.
Included within Trade and other payables is an amount of interest arising on tax contingencies of $116m.