COPORATE TAX AVOIDANCE has been branded “completely unacceptable” by the business secretary, who has called on UK authorities to do more to stop it.
There are “appalling stories of abuse”, according to Vince Cable (pictured), but he conceded the issue required international agreement as well as domestic action if it is to be effectively tackled.
His comments, made to the BBC, come a week after the Public Accounts Committee questioned executives from Starbucks, Amazon and Google over their alleged tax-mitigation arrangements – although all three firms insist they pay the tax required.
Cable acknowledged the practice could be particularly damaging for small and medium-sized companies facing competitive pressures from larger firms.
He said: “The best off in society have got to contribute more, and that includes companies.
“There’s nothing more galling to small and medium-sized enterprises when they are paying [tax], and others are dodging it. Our own tax authorities have got to be very tough on things like royalty payments, which is where a lot of the subterfuge takes place.”
A solution, however, would be difficult to find, he said, particularly given the UK’s attempts to make itself more attractive to investment.
“The big question is whether you can get wider [international] agreement,” he said.
“It is quite difficult to drill down to what the problems are. Starbucks claims they are actually making losses in the UK. I don’t know whether they are not, but you would need some pretty intensive investigation by the Inland Revenue (sic) to establish what exactly is going on, whether their transfer prices and their royalties are being fiddled or not.”
All the companies facing criticism insist they operate within the tax rules and pay all tax required of them.
At HMRC, Dmitri Surendran was responsible for leading the London team of the offshore, corporate and wealthy unit of the fraud investigation service
Research also finds that 84% of businesses believe that the government has not provided enough information about digital tax plans
A total of £16bn was lost through tax fraud last year, according to estimates released by Pinsent Masons
Additional tax a result of compliance investigations by HMRC, but overall revenue falls