Sanlam’s aim is to manage the Group’s tax affairs in line with our four-pillar strategy and all aspects of good corporate governance, financial risk management and transparent reporting. We are committed to a principle-based tax approach that should be sustainable in the long term and continuously transparent.
The Group takes a conservative and responsible approach to managing our tax affairs. We extended our international footprint in emerging markets over recent years and acknowledge that – with a rapidly changing global tax environment – the Group is obliged to continuously monitor and review tax governance practices in the geographical areas where we operate.
Tax is a complex area and, consequently, we understand the importance of having a strong governance framework in place. As a result, tax governance and risk management is treated as a tight principle in the Group.
We respect the laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which we operate. Of primary importance is that we fulfil our compliance obligations to pay the correct amount of tax at the right time on an ongoing basis. To do this, we operate an effective and appropriate financial control framework.
The Board, the Audit, Actuarial and Finance and the Risk and Compliance committees are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the tax affairs of the Group are managed effectively. Throughout the Group, the heads of the financial functions of each business take responsibility for managing day-to-day tax compliance and report to the relevant cluster audit committee, which in turn report to the relevant Board committees. We encourage building tax administration capabilities and ongoing review and strengthening of efficient tax administration systems in each business.
A team of tax professionals with appropriate technical qualifications and experience forms part of the Group Office and is responsible for the overall Group tax strategy, tax technical guidance and tax risk management and compliance. The head of Group tax reports to the Group Financial Director. Independent health checks are conducted on an ad hoc basis by external advisors to assess the effectiveness of the tax control frameworks.
Tax legislation is growing in complexity. Appropriate processes are in place to ensure that financial functions remain up to date with changes in tax legislation and the implementation thereof. Where appropriate, external professional advisors are consulted to ensure that we remain up to date with changes in tax legislation, disclosure requirements and best practice.
Tax governance and compliance is aligned with the Group’s Code of Ethical Conduct.
Identifying and managing business risks is central to achieving our business strategy and is embedded in all business activities, functions, processes and systems.
Each business, in conjunction with the Group tax function monitors tax controls and processes on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance and to mitigate the risk of non-compliance. However, risks can arise through poor implementation of transactions, ineffective management of controls and sometimes through legal challenges by tax authorities. In such situations, we adopt a proactive approach to address the potential financial impact of any risks to aid the resolution of any such matter.
Sanlam is committed to being honest and transparent in all business dealings – this includes our approach to tax planning and tax efficiency. The Group has a responsible and conservative approach.The tax impact and efficiency of investment decisions and operational matters are appropriately considered initially and monitored on an ongoing basis. All decisions are based on and supported by sound commercial purpose and economic rationale. Tax will be the result of implementing our business strategy and will not drive business strategy.
The level of risk in relation to tax will therefore always be consistent with the Group’s overall objective of achieving certainty and long term sustainability in our commercial affairs.
The Group is well represented on industry bodies that regularly engage with tax authorities to shape tax policy and legislation. Where possible, we seek to maintain a proactive, open and constructive relationship with tax authorities to protect and manage the tax principles and strategy around our business activities to ensure certainty and long term sustainability. Where appropriate, the Group will seek clarity on uncertain tax positions on any material matter through external council advice and/or obtaining rulings or guidance from tax authorities.
Given our geographical scope and the extent and nature of our operations we may have occasional disputes with tax authorities. Our approach is to proactively try to resolve these without compromising on the technical legal principles in a manner that is robust, open and consistent with our Sanlam values.
The Audit, Actuarial and Finance committee ensures that the disclosures in the Sanlam Annual Reporting Suite are relevant to all stakeholders and comply with the applicable legal framework that includes details in respect of taxation.
Sanlam makes full disclosure when filing tax returns to tax authorities in the jurisdictions where we operate, and support the increase in stakeholder demand for transparency and the sharing of third-party information. We comply with the three-tiered transfer pricing reporting requirement introduced by the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its joint initiative to address base erosion and profit shifting. In addition Sanlam complies with the automatic exchange of information requirements in respect of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS).