In the wake of government cuts and previous investigations into the tax affairs of Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, global firms are coming under increasing criticism for paying little or no corporation tax in the UK. A report by Reuters recently highlighted exactly how Starbucks got away with paying a piffling £8.6m in taxes over 14 years. Meanwhile, Google paid just £3.4m in 2011 by channeling UK sales via Ireland and Amazon paid less than £1m in the same year.
UK Uncut has announced a day of action against Starbucks on 8 December, rolling two causes into one handy protest — the impact of government cuts on women and the coffee shop chain's tax avoidance. In a press release, UK Uncut activist Sarah Greene said:
"It is an outrage that the government continues to let multinationals like Starbucks dodge millions in tax while vital services like refuges and rape crisis centres face the axe. It does not have to be this way. The government could easily bring in billions that could fund vital services by clamping down on tax dodging, but are instead making cuts that are forcing women to choose between motherhood and work, and trapping them in abusive relationships."
In July, Treasury Minister David Gauke called UK Uncut's claims 'hysterical', pointing out that 'many ways of dodging the taxman are legitimate, and suggested groups like UK Uncut were operating at the fringes of politics and making claims about tax deals which were inaccurate'. Which sort of highlights UK Uncut's point that while tax avoidance measures may be legal, they're not necessarily ethical or desirable when the government are making financial cuts across the board.
UK Uncut have made a point of targeting corporations — they stormed the Panton Street offices of mining company Xstrata last year and were behind the Fortnum & Mason sit-in. They also joined forces with disability rights protesters during the Paralympics over Atos sponsorship of the Games.
Google CEO Matt Brittin, Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead and Amazon Director of Public Policy Andrew Cecil will appear before the Public Affairs Committee at 3.15pm today at Portcullis House to speak on taxation of multinational corporations.
Photo by Mulia in the Londonist Flickr pool.