UK lawmakers slam Starbucks, Amazon and Google on tax

Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:47pm EST
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By Tom Bergin

LONDON (Reuters) - UK lawmakers criticized executives of Starbucks, Google and Amazon on Monday for not paying more tax in Britain, and Amazon said it had received a $252 million demand for back taxes from France.

Britain's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is charged with monitoring government financial affairs, invited the companies to give evidence amid mounting public and political concern about tax avoidance by big international companies.

Britain and Germany last week announced plans to push the Group of 20 economic powers to make multinational companies pay their "fair share" of taxes following reports of large firms exploiting loopholes to avoid taxes.

Amazon received a $252 million back tax claim from the French tax authority in September, related to its practice of channeling European sales through Luxembourg. The company said it was fighting the claim, referred to by an Amazon official at the hearing.

Members of Parliament (MPs) on the committee quizzed Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead about how the group's UK unit managed to report 13 years of losses.

"You're either running the business badly, or there's some fiddle going on," Austin Mitchell MP said.

A Reuters report last month showed that Starbucks had paid no corporation, or income, tax in Britain in the past three years and had paid only 8.6 million pounds since 1998.

Over this period it sold 3.1 billion pounds worth of coffee, prompting criticism from politicians and media commentators.   Continued...

St Paul's Cathedral is pictured behind signage for a Starbucks coffee shop in London October 8, 2012. Picture taken October 8, 2012. REUTERS/Luke Macgregor