By Karen B. Brown, Theodore Rinehart Professor of Business Law, George Washington University Law School
This blog is part of a special series exploring subjects at the core of the Human-Centred Business Model (HCBM). The HCMB seeks to develop an innovative – human-centred – business model
based on a common, holistic and integrated set of economic, social, environmental and ethical rights-based principles. Read more about the HCBM here, and check out an event about it here
The HCBM project originated in 2015 within the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and is now based at the OECD’s Development Centre.
Sustainable enterprises seek to marry models for good business practices with principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability, many of which are founded on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These objectives aim to advance human rights, fair wages, healthier and safer working conditions, gender equality, child welfare, environmental protections, and ethical behavior designed to impede corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. The failure to achieve these objectives imposes considerable costs on governments: diminished productivity and quality of life for their constituents, inefficiency in the operation of markets, and reduced economic growth. An important step towards achieving sustainability goals may come through a government’s use of incentives in the fiscal regime.
Governments traditionally use their tax codes to make “tax expenditures” designed to achieve objectives that advance important policy goals or principles. For example, a government may provide a departure from normal tax rules by reducing the capital gains tax and deferring the time for when gains must be reported if a taxpayer invests in certain qualified opportunity zones that are designated low-income communities. In other words, the government is willing to forego the capital gains tax revenue it would otherwise collect in exchange for investment intended to stimulate economic growth in areas where underserved constituents reside. Other examples abound of using tax expenditures to achieve legitimate governmental ends. Consider the following three ways — substantive tax provisions, tax rate reductions and “bright listing ”– that use incentives to encourage the integration of human-centred goals into business practices: Continue reading