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UK corporate tax avoidance - 2012-2013

Corporate tax avoidance in the UK has become an increasingly high profile issue.  Because of the number of allegations and the impact that corporate tax avoidance has on social and economic rights (i.e. the funding of public services) we have pulled together the major allegations, government-announced regulatory steps and commentaries.

For further information on tax avoidance please see our special page: "Tax avoidance: An introduction", which makes the connection between tax avoidance and infringement of human rights.

For media coverage concerning tax avoidance, the G8 and the G20 meetings see our special pages "June 2013 G8 summit tax avoidance coverage" and "July 2013 G20 summit tax avoidance coverage". 


Latest additions

UK to make public true owners of companies in drive against tax evasion, crime
Thomson Reuters Foundation (UK), 31 Oct 2013

Global Witness welcomes UK’s historic rollback of corporate secrecy
Global Witness, 31 Oct 2013

Wonga denies tax avoidance as head of HMRC is to be recalled to Parliament over failure to collect £4.7bn from UK businesses
This is Money (UK) 12 Oct 2013

Tax Avoidance: Facebook Paid Zero UK Corporation Tax in 2012
International Business Times, 9 Oct 2013

Vodafone's £84bn tax avoidance bonanza: Nothing for taxpayers in Verizon deal while bankers share £500m in fees
Independent (UK), 2 Sep 2013

UK Tackles Gaming Tax Avoidance
Tax-News.com, 19 Aug 2013

UK tax authority proposes stricter regime
Financial Times, 16 Aug 2016

Government Launches Tax-Avoidance Consultation
4rfv.co.uk, 12 Aug 2013

'Cowboy advisers' set for £1m fines under HMRC tax avoidance plans
Centaur Communications, 12 Aug 2013

Lords say Amazon-style tax avoidance schemes must end

Guardian (UK), 31 Jul 2013

Corporation tax avoidance difficult to track
Belfast Telegraph,23 Jul 2013

UK: HM Revenue & Customs should "fully investigate" Google after information from whistleblowers "undermined" firm's defence of its tax arrangements - Public Accounts Committee
BBC, 13 Jun 2013

UK: Thames Water criticised after it was revealed it paid no corporation tax while revenues rose to £1.8 billion - includes company comments
John-Paul Ford Rojas, Independent (UK), 10 Jun 2013

UK Prime Minister Cameron to urge Britain's overseas territories to prevent tax avoidance by signing agreements to share tax information
Patrick Wintour, Guardian (UK), 4 Jun 2013

ActionAid research finds 98 of the 100 companies in the FTSE 100 had subsidiaries in countries defined by the charity as tax havens, Guardian (UK), undated


Amazon, Google & Starbucks

In November 2012, the UK Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee questioned Amazon, Google & Starbucks over their tax affairs in the UK.  The questioning saw "all three companies accused of siphoning profits away from Britain by using a complex web of accounting strategies that were cynical and “unjust”."  “We are not accusing you of being illegal,” said Mrs Hodge [chair of the committee] , “we are accusing you of being immoral.”

As a result of the questioning and the statements by the Public Accounts Committee there has been considerable media coverage regarding the activities of these companies.  Below is a selection of this coverage.

Google and ExxonMobil run rings around outdated tax laws
Conversation Trust (UK), 2 Oct 2013

UK: HM Revenue & Customs should "fully investigate" Google after information from whistleblowers "undermined" firm's defence of its tax arrangements - Public Accounts Committee
BBC, 13 Jun 2013

MPs slam Starbucks, Amazon and Google on tax, Tom Bergin, Reuters, 12 Nov 2012

Starbucks, Amazon and Google accused of being 'immoral' (UK), Helia Ebrahimi, Telegraph (UK), 19 Nov 2012

UK: Parliamentary report accuses Amazon, Google & Starbucks of "immoral" use of secretive jurisdictions, royalties & complex company structures to avoid tax, Rajeev Syal & Patrick Wintour, Guardian (UK), 03 Dec 2012

Independent booksellers deliver Amazon taxation petition to No 10 (UK), Alison Flood, Guardian (UK), 25 Apr 2013

CEO Eric Schmidt defends Google tax affairs, saying firm was key to UK growth, Press Association, 22 Apr 2013

UK: Google called back to parliament to answer tax questions after investigation challenges some of its previous evidence; company denies claims, Juliette Garside, Guardian (UK), 01 May 2013

UK: MPs ready to "haul Amazon back to parliament" for questions after investigation suggests it is "pushing the tax rulebook to its limits" - includes company comments, Ian Griffiths & Simon Bowers, Guardian (UK), 16 May 2013

Google branded devious over tax arrangements (UK), Press Association, 16 May 2013

Google CEO Eric Schmidt defends company's tax affairs following Commons criticism, Barry Neild, Guardian (UK), 18 May 2013

Google boss Eric Schmidt hits back at Ed Miliband over tax, BBC, 22 May 2013

 


Proposed regulation

LibDems plan tax-avoidance crackdown, Herald & Times, 7 Aug 2013

Tax avoidance firms will be banned from major government contracts (UK)
, Press Association, 14 Feb 2013

Big UK tax avoiders will easily get round new government policy, Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at Univ. of Essex in Guardian (UK), 15 Feb 2013

[video] HM Revenue & Custom's Jim Harra: Tackling tax avoidance 'a priority', BBC, 16 May 2013

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he will write new rules to tackle corporate tax avoidance if he wins the next election, BBC, 19 May 2013

see also: UK Chancellor, George Osborne, pledges to help world's poor fight corporate tax abuse, Feb 2013

UK Prime Minister Cameron to urge Britain's overseas territories to prevent tax avoidance by signing agreements to share tax information
Patrick Wintour, Guardian (UK), 4 June 2013

 

Allegations re tax affairs of other companies

ActionAid research finds 98 of the 100 companies in the FTSE 100 had subsidiaries in countries defined by the charity as tax havens, Guardian (UK), undated

UK: Public Accounts Committee says Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG & PWC are using knowledge gained from staff seconded to the Treasury to help clients avoid tax, Rajeev Syal, Simon Bowers & Patrick Wintour, Guardian (UK), 26 Apr 2013

Tax avoidance from big global firms costs every British taxpayer £183 a year, Dominic Herbert, Mirror (UK), 19 May 2013
"The deficit could pay for over 100,000 nurses, police officers and teachers."

Npower feels the heat after accusations of UK tax avoidance - includes company comments, Miles Brignal, Guardian (UK), 18 May 2013

Marks & Spencer under fire over online tax arrangements - includes company comments, James Ball, Guardian (UK), 19 May 2013

UK: Thames Water criticised after it was revealed it paid no corporation tax while revenues rose to £1.8 billion - includes company comments
John-Paul Ford Rojas, Independent (UK), 10 Jun 2013

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Related stories and components

Article
31 October 2013

UK to make public true owners of companies in drive against tax evasion, crime

Author: Luke Balleny, Thomson Reuters Foundation (UK)

The United Kingdom has decided to lift the veil of secrecy over who owns private companies by opening a corporate registry to the public, a move that will make it harder to evade taxes and hide the proceeds of corruption…The United Kingdom would...

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Article
12 October 2013

Wonga denies tax avoidance as head of HMRC is to be recalled to Parliament over failure to collect £4.7bn from UK businesses

Author: This is Money (UK)

Payday lender Wonga was accused...of shifting parts of its business to Switzerland in a move that could help it to avoid paying millions in corporation tax...Corporation Watch claimed the UK’s largest payday lender had moved £35million of its UK...

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Article
16 May 2013

Fresh questions for Amazon over pittance it pays in tax [UK]

Author: Ian Griffiths & Simon Bowers, Guardian [UK]

MPs are ready to haul Amazon back to parliament to answer new questions about its tax status in Britain after a Guardian investigation's findings suggest the online retailer is pushing the tax rulebook to its limits to minimise its tax bill. Company...

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Article
16 May 2013

Google branded devious over tax arrangements [UK]

Author: Press Association

Google was branded devious, calculating and unethical as MPs stepped up pressure on the internet giant over its efforts to shelter its multi-billion profits from UK taxes. At a stormy session of the Commons public accounts committee (PAC), members...

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Article
1 May 2013

Google ordered back to parliament to answer tax questions [UK]

Author: Juliette Garside, Guardian [UK]

Google and its auditor Ernst & Young will be recalled to parliament to restate their evidence on the internet search giant's tax position following an investigation into Google's advertising sales practices. Matt Brittin, Google's European boss,...

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Article
25 April 2013

Independent booksellers deliver Amazon taxation petition to No 10 [UK]

Author: Alison Flood, Guardian [UK]

Supported by Stephen Fry, Margaret Hodge and Charlie Higson, independent booksellers Frances and Keith Smith delivered a petition calling on David Cameron to take "decisive action [to] make Amazon pay its fair share of UK corporation tax" to Downing...

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Article
22 April 2013

Eric Schmidt defends Google tax affairs, saying firm was key to UK growth

Author: Press Association

Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has defended the internet giant's tax affairs, saying the firm was playing a key role in the UK's high-tech growth. The firm paid just £6m in corporation tax in 2011, but Schmidt said the arrangements "fully...

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Article
15 February 2013

Big UK tax avoiders will easily get round new government policy

Author: Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at Univ. of Essex in Guardian [UK]

The key policy is that from April 2013, potential suppliers to central government for contracts of £2m or more will have to declare whether they indulged in tax avoidance…The policy is high on gimmicks and empty gestures, and short on substance. The...

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Article
14 February 2013

Tax avoidance firms will be banned from major government contracts [UK]

Author: Press Association

Companies found guilty of aggressive tax avoidance will be banned from bidding for major government contracts, under new rules published by the Treasury. Firms and individuals bidding for contracts will be required to declare whether their tax returns...

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Article
3 December 2012

MPs attack Amazon, Google and Starbucks over tax avoidance [UK]

Author: Rajeev Syal & Patrick Wintour, Guardian [UK]

Amazon, Google and Starbucks have been accused of an "immoral" use of secretive jurisdictions, royalties and complex company structures to avoid paying tax on British profits by a committee of MPs. A hard-hitting report…by the Commons public accounts...

Read more