/ Google, Starbucks and Amazon in front of the PAC

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confusicating on 12 Nov 2012
http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_commons/newsid_8167000/8167511.stm

Streaming live. Those three companies in front of the Public accounts committee.

Could be interesting!

(Now, Simon4, tell me that UkUncut haven't made a difference)
EeeByGum - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating:

> Could be interesting!

What - that they are applying the letter of the law (as set by parliament) to their tax arrangements?

Perhaps the problem is with our tax law? I can see a load of bullsh1t political posturing happening in this sitting.
IMA - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating: As mentioned, what do they say, sorry we paid people to ensure we followed your tax laws. I'm not sure any of them are even classed as aggressively pursuing tax loop holes.

Time and money would be better spent in fixing/creating a new simplified and adjustable tax system that isn't a document with little notes applied over the years
EeeByGum - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to IMA: Agreed. Either that, or adjusting the various corporation rates so that they are competitive on a world playing field.
confusicating on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to EeeByGum:

I am exactly saying that the problem is the tax law.
thomasadixon - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating:

It is interesting, Starbucks rep certainly came across quite well explaining their situation. Margaret Hodge on the other hand does like to shout over people and not let them answer.

Why do you think UkUncut specifically are responsible?
Philip on 12 Nov 2012
Why should companies pay corporation tax?

All money paid to employees and share owners is taxed (or should be), all sales are taxed. Is it not better to change these rates until the revenue required is achieved.
winhill - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating:

Where's Apple?
winhill - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating:

Amazon told Don't waste our time you bunch of cnuts.
Jon Stewart - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Philip:
> Why should companies pay corporation tax?
>
> All money paid to employees and share owners is taxed (or should be), all sales are taxed. Is it not better to change these rates until the revenue required is achieved.

If the govt were serious about cracking down on tax avoidance that might possibly be a radical solution, but so might any number of reforms that simplified the system. However, I'm not sure that simplification is really in anyone's interest. The art of taxation seems to be about splitting up the revenue required into as many different rates as possible so actually how much tax an individual or a company is paying is completely opaque. This way, you can make changes to little bits at a time, without everyone kicking up a fuss. And with the whole thing shrouded in mystique, maths and pointy-heads, lots of revenue gets collected with 99% of the population essentially unaware that it's happening. Tax is something that govt needs to do as quietly as possible, and an absurdly complex system provides this cloak of secrecy. I don't have a problem with that, I want taxes to be collected without being continually deafened by the petulant whining of the greedy.

The trade-off is that an incredibly complex system can be unraveled by accountants/tax-dodge lawyers, and so those with the wherewithal are able to avoid nearly all of it. But if these people are your funders and voters, then an incredibly complex system allows you to let them get away without without having to take responsibility. You can bang on about cracking down on tax avoidance but if the system is opaque enough, it's difficult for anyone to hold you to account as to whether you're just posturing while protecting the interests of your funders/voters.

And for that reason I don't think we'll be seeing any radical reforms of the type you suggest.



Jon Stewart - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to thomasadixon:
> (In reply to confusicating)
>

> Why do you think UkUncut specifically are responsible?

While it would be impossible to prove the causality, UKuncut have been incredibly successful in raising public awareness of the issue of corporate tax avoidance. And as such, it is highly likely that they have made a significant contribution to the un-untangle-able sum total of causal factors that have meant these guys are in front of the PAC today. Can't be proved, but I think that the amount of times UKuncut have been interviewed in the mainstream political media (i.e. Newsnight etc), suggests that politicians are listening to them and what reaction they get from the public.

Personally, I think that UKuncut are one of the only parties (as in players, not political parties) who have a valid point in the whole debate about the cuts. I believe the Tories are cutting in an irresponsible, f^ck-the-poor manner, without anything approaching the degree of serious analysis of where savings can best be made with minimum impact on ordinary people that I believe is appropriate. We know that Labour just like to piss money up the wall without making sure they're achieving anything, as long as it looks good and keeps them in office. The TUC just want their jobs, pay and pensions protected and f^ck everyone else. But UKuncut actually have a point!
Postmanpat on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to thomasadixon)
> [...]
>
But UKuncut actually have a point!
>
They have a valid core point but much of their analysis is either ignorant, uninformed, misleading or plain dishonest-which leaves them much the same as the other institutions you list :-)


Jon Stewart - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
> But UKuncut actually have a point!
> [...]
> They have a valid core point but much of their analysis is either ignorant, uninformed, misleading or plain dishonest-which leaves them much the same as the other institutions you list :-)

I can believe that their analysis is as crap as you say, but not knowing the right answers, I unfortunately can't tell.

However, it still doesn't put them down to the depths of those other guys, all of whom have shady, dishonest purposes behind their lies and spin, whereas UKuncut have a good point behind theirs.
Postmanpat on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Jon Stewart:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> However, it still doesn't put them down to the depths of those other guys, all of whom have shady, dishonest purposes behind their lies and spin, whereas UKuncut have a good point behind theirs.

Really, those institutions, as opposed to the people in them, have valid purposes. Lets be honest, isn't the real purpose of UKuncut anticapitalism?

Postmanpat on 12 Nov 2012
Rob Exile Ward on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Jon Stewart: This is all a bit precious and anti capitalist. If your pension fund turns round in 10 years time and says 'sorry we're not going to pay out as much pension to you as you hoped and expected, we felt morally obliged to pay more tax than the law of the land demanded that we do', you'd feel a bit miffed, to say the least.

The issue of tax isn't a moral issue at all, it's a technical one. How does a government generate revenue from companies while ensuring shareholders have an adequate return to continue investing capital; while encouraging companies to make long term investments in a country; and not disincentivating companies from operating in or investing in the UK as opposed to anywhere else on the planet.

Actually I think there may be grounds for changing the tax basis for companies that are primarily retailers from profit to sales, but I think someone here recently suggested that is happening anyway?
Dominion - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:


The Telegraph have cheek, since their owners - The Barclay Brothers - live in a tax haven and probably use pretty similar tactics to minimise their businesses' tax exposure that google, starbucks and amazon do...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_and_Frederick_Barclay#Controversies


;-)
Postmanpat on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Dominion:

I was unaware the Barclay brothers chair the public accounts committee. Glad the Grauniad maintained the moral high ground by missing this story :)
dissonance - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Margaret Hodge has a cheek,

not surprising from a politican really. Doesnt matter though all it means is she puts herself into a corner when her own words get quoted back.
dissonance - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) This is all a bit precious and anti capitalist. If your pension fund turns round in 10 years time and says 'sorry we're not going to pay out as much pension to you as you hoped and expected, we felt morally obliged to pay more tax than the law of the land demanded that we do', you'd feel a bit miffed, to say the least.

considering they will have probably wiped out most of the value anyway and then took a chunk from the remainder for their quality management skills I cant say it would btoher me that much. After all in theory would come off general taxation.
Jon Stewart - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart) This is all a bit precious and anti capitalist.

What is? I am not anti-capitalist (unless you'd class everyone from Vince Cable leftwards as "anti-capitalist").

> If your pension fund turns round in 10 years time and says 'sorry we're not going to pay out as much pension to you as you hoped and expected, we felt morally obliged to pay more tax than the law of the land demanded that we do', you'd feel a bit miffed, to say the least.

No. I don't believe that my pension is significantly dependent on tax avoidance (I could I suppose be wrong, but it sounds ridiculous to me). If my pension was a few quid less because the government addressed tax avoidance and that was the impact, I'd accept that no problem. I strongly suspect that your argument that the average person's pension is dependent on tax avoidance is complete nonsense.

This may be an alien concept to you, but I see myself as part of a society where the money I pay in tax doesn't just disappear (to some poor person I don't want to have, perhaps); it is money that I have spent on public services which I value. OK, the system is inefficient, but that is a technical issue.

> The issue of tax isn't a moral issue at all, it's a technical one. How does a government generate revenue from companies while ensuring shareholders have an adequate return to continue investing capital; while encouraging companies to make long term investments in a country; and not disincentivating companies from operating in or investing in the UK as opposed to anywhere else on the planet.

I agree 100%. But I don't think that the optimum technical solution is to let big business rip us off. We're the UK FFS, Starbucks and Google want to do business here. We're not milking them and we should be. The optimum solution gets as much revenue as possible and the best economic output. You seem to be arguing that we've hit that optimum, and any changes to attempt to collect more revenue will be offset by a decrease in economic output. I could be wrong, but it sounds like complete rubbish to me.

> Actually I think there may be grounds for changing the tax basis for companies that are primarily retailers from profit to sales, but I think someone here recently suggested that is happening anyway?

Could be good.

Jon Stewart - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Jon Stewart)
> [...]
>
> Really, those institutions, as opposed to the people in them, have valid purposes. Lets be honest, isn't the real purpose of UKuncut anticapitalism?

Umm, I dunno. I just agree with their point that the government is being utterly shady by saying that cutting services which benefit the poor in very basic ways is necessary when there's a not-inconsiderable pot to look in first called uncollected tax from big business.

To be clear, I'm moderate on both sides of the issue. I think that we do need to reduce public spending, and I don't think that a massive assault on the profits of big business is sensible. However, I strongly believe that it would be possible for the government to collect more tax from big business than it does without damaging productivity, and that public spending could be cut less severely and with far better targeting to areas of waste and nice-to-haves rather than screwing the poor (and attempting to justify that blindingly obvious fact with nothing more than sickening, meaningless soundbites like "we're all in this together" and "the big society"...excuse me while I throw up all my internal organs).
IainRUK - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to IMA:
> (In reply to confusicating) As mentioned, what do they say, sorry we paid people to ensure we followed your tax laws. I'm not sure any of them are even classed as aggressively pursuing tax loop holes.
>
> Time and money would be better spent in fixing/creating a new simplified and adjustable tax system that isn't a document with little notes applied over the years

Agreed,.. FB guy was on 5 live tonight.. its why we offer tax breaks.. we all do it, any area designated poor by europe does it..
The New NickB - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Dominion)
>
> I was unaware the Barclay brothers chair the public accounts committee. Glad the Grauniad maintained the moral high ground by missing this story :)

Missing it in what way?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/12/amazon-google-starbucks-diverting-uk-profits
Postmanpat on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to The New NickB:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Missing it in what way?
>
Er, in the missing it completely way (the story being,as per my link, that the Hodge family company pays virtually no tax)
Martin W on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> the Hodge family company pays virtually no tax

It paid 163,000 in the last tax year. The spokesman said that in the past three years it has paid a total of 30M in UK corporation tax. So in one year it paid not very much tax, but over a longer period it has paid (and could therefore reasonable to claim that it "pays") a much larger amount. All companies are able to offset certain profit & cost aspects of the business between tax years for various reasons, maybe that's what's happened in this case? Funny how a subtle change of tense can make a difference to the implied meaning of a headline, though, isn't it?

Of course the Stemcor spokesman might be lying - but then again he did also offer to provide more details on the company's tax affairs to the media if they wanted to see the, so if he's lying he'd be wise to have made sure that he has a good cover story prepared.

Note that the Telegraph also calculated the tax as a percentage of revenue, rather than profit which is what the tax is actually levied on. Maybe it was a simple mistake? A simple mistake that someone writing a piece about company taxes should perhaps not have made - or else an editor should have spotted the error. Blimey, they're almost as bad as the BBC! We can expect at least one suspension as a result of this, surely?
Tall Clare - on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to confusicating:

People might find this interesting: http://starbucks.co.uk/blog/starbucks-commitment-to-the-uk/1240

They've left comments on and they're getting a suitable roasting...
Postmanpat on 13 Nov 2012
In reply to Martin W:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> It paid 163,000 in the last tax year. The spokesman said that in the past three years it has paid a total of 30M in UK corporation tax. So in one year it paid not very much tax, but over a longer period it has paid (and could therefore reasonable to claim that it "pays") a much larger amount. All companies are able to offset certain profit & cost aspects of the business between tax years for various reasons, maybe that's what's happened in this case? Funny how a subtle change of tense can make a difference to the implied meaning of a headline, though, isn't it?
>
> Of course the Stemcor spokesman might be lying - but then again he did also offer to provide more details on the company's tax affairs to the media if they wanted to see the, so if he's lying he'd be wise to have made sure that he has a good cover story prepared.
>
So basically Stemcor are providing a similar explanation to Barclays Bank (not the brothers) and not an entirely different assurance to Vodaphone and the US companies currently under attack ie.that they are paying all required UK taxes.

> Note that the Telegraph also calculated the tax as a percentage of revenue, Blimey, they're almost as bad as the BBC! We can expect at least one suspension as a result of this, surely?

Almost, but unlike the BBC they also focused on the profit number in the next para.

The point is that whereas the Telegraph covers the the Google, Starbucks and Amazon stories, albeit almost as inaccurately as the Grauniad, Indie and the BBC, the latter seem reluctant to cover the Stemcor story inaccurately or otherwise.

confusicating on 15 Nov 2012
In reply to thomasadixon:

Hello!

I think they (we?) are partially responsible for bringing the issue of tax avoidance into the mainstream media, through investigative journalism, direct action and lobbying.

Which has brought enough of an interest about tax avoidance to people who otherwise would not have any idea of the scale of it (and furthered our knowledge/understanding too), so it is being discussed and investigated on a much larger scale and taken more seriously.
Graeme Alderson on 15 Nov 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

Although to be strictly accurate the Telegraph article doesn't really give any detail other than a figure for profits v copr tax for a single year.

Possibly a big story but currently it's more of a fishing story don't you think.

Postmanpat on 15 Nov 2012
In reply to Graeme Alderson:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Although to be strictly accurate the Telegraph article doesn't really give any detail other than a figure for profits v copr tax for a single year.
>
> Possibly a big story but currently it's more of a fishing story don't you think.

Yes, but aren't they all? The press and parliamentary coverage is just lamentable. The particular problem with writing on Stemcor is that as a private company it need to give away so much information. Their UK tax paid appears to be very low but we don't know what their UK profits are or how they were arrived at. Global commodity trading company? You've got to wonder.

Ironically Stemcor's other defence (apart from the standard "we abide by the rules") is that it pays an average 30% global tax rate. Well,Starbucks paid 33% this year and north of 30% for the past 3 years and Amazon paid 31%. Google, it is true paid much less.

My point is simply that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


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