Starbucks, Google And Amazon Face MPs Over Tax

Three international corporations will face questions from MPs over tax avoidance today, while campaign group UK Uncut plans a day of protest against Starbucks.

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.

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  • Rico_Featherbutt

    This Sarah girl needs whatever’s up her arse, yanked out. Because companies switch their tax geographical base to somewhere legal and a financially sound location, women are trapped in abusive relationships? That’s bloody sad that everything leads to this problem.

    My solution: women shouldn’t get into relationships. Just sleep around a lot. With all the free time they get, they can learn about how money works. In learning this, they will see that money belonging to companies, doesn’t actually belong to Sarah.

  • CanAmSteve

    Anyone here read Private Eye? This is not a failure of the corporations – they have a responsibility, legal and well-understood, to pay the taxes required by law and no more. This is a failure of the government and the public service to pass laws and apply them properly. Witness Vodafone, etc. taking the HMRC out to lunch and agreeing a discount of a billion pounds here and there.

    How should *$ pay tax? Per coffee sold? Per square foot retail? Total sales in the UK? HMRC is quick to turn the screws on the little guy, whilst the big guys (and rich home purchasers like Maggie T) avoid the taxes ordinary people pay. This is a problem with legislation.

    • BethPH

      I totally agree that it’s a failure of the government to close these kind of loopholes, and to be honest, I find it rather hypocritical of the government to call corporations to account over tax avoidance.