Feeds

Google, Amazon, Starbucks are 'immoral' and 'ridiculous' over UK tax

'We don't make any money here' insists milkbar bigwig

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

MPs didn't shrink from telling senior execs from Amazon, Starbucks and Google that they were "ridiculous", "unbelievable" and "immoral" about their UK taxes.

Under questioning from the Public Accounts Committee, Andrew Cecil, the director of public policy for Amazon, tried to claim that he had no idea what sales were made in Britain alone because European sales were taken as a whole. Cecil also said that the Luxembourg-based headquarters for Amazon EU S.a.r.L. was owned by a holding company but couldn't explain why that was necessary or who then owned that holding company.

The committee said that Amazon.co.uk gave every impression of being a British firm, books that were ordered from the site came through the Royal Mail, from a UK fulfilment warehouse that billed the person, but somehow taxes ended up being paid in Luxembourg, where the rate is less than the UK's.

But Cecil said that some taxes were paid in Britain by Amazon UK Ltd, the company that ran the fulfilment centres in the country, among other jobs. He said that Amazon paid £1.8m in corporation tax on over £200m turnover in 2011. He also said that Amazon EU S.a.r.L. turned over €9.1bn, but somehow only made a profit of €20m.

The MPs said that they weren't against internet shopping, most of them were happy customers of Amazon, but they just couldn't understand how the figures worked out the way did.

"I'm a satisfied customer," Austin Mitchell, Labour MP, said. "I love those emails you send asking me if I want that biography of John Major or Fifty Shades of Grey… [but] your business is here, your customers are here."

Cecil stuck with the same answer to almost every question, protesting "We're a pan-European company!" at least five times.

The MPs in the committee were increasingly exasperated at what they termed "evasive" and "ridiculous" answers.

"You've come with nothing!" Labour MP Margaret Hodge exclaimed after Cecil once again said he didn't have the answer to a question with him. "We will have to order a serious person to appear before us and answer our questions."

Google VP for sales and operations in Northern and Central Europe, Matt Brittin, was refreshingly blunt by comparison, admitting that Google's European operations were set up in Ireland because its corporation tax was just 12.5 per cent versus 20 to 24 per cent in the UK.

He said Ireland also offered a skilled workforce since tech companies like Intel and Microsoft were already in the country but one reason to set up there was the favourable tax rate.

When Hodge asked why Ireland paid money on to the Netherlands, Brittin said that was no longer "necessary" but admitted it was a setup that used to help the company out with tax. He also admitted to having operations in tax haven Bermuda, which he claimed were to hold intellectual property rights outside the US.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.