Starbucks and the multi-national shuffle

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December 2, 2012 by corneliustownedge

Good news workers and shirkers. Starbucks have graciously decided to ‘review’ their methods of tax avoidance!

Presumably this pronouncement is intended to ensure that their succesful ‘non-profit’ enterprise doesn’t increase it’s ‘non-profitability’ as a result of growing public comprehension of the way the ‘free market’ operates. With many customers now presumably ‘reviewing’ whether or not they want to pour anymore of their hard-earned into the corporate trough.

But wait. Before we all flock back to buy overpriced coffee and dry, loveless pastries ; what are they doing again? Looking at their methods of avoidance?

I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that in building their tax dodging, non-profit making business model they employed a small army of well paid lawyers and accountants to sidle around the monopoly friendly tax regime of our ‘Septic Isle’ .

This Coffee may induce a bitter aftertaste...

This Coffee may induce a bitter aftertaste…

They wouldn’t need to work too hard though, all that is required to circumvent the inland revenue is a little financial and geographical fleet of foot. I won’t bore anyone with the specifics, i think we’re pretty familiar with the hustle, but ‘ a few figures to consider if you’re craving a Starbucks fix.

In three years, Starbucks has paid no tax in the UK despite sales totalling 1.2 billion. British company Costa Coffee generated 377 million last year and paid 15 million in tax.

Waterstones, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer  are examples of companies who retain a sense of public responsibility when it comes to paying tax. I’m not going to get bogged down too much in the detail, but from the seemingly disparate amounts paid, the retrieval rate seems to be based on the ability of the inland revenue to haggle, and the relative strength of corporate ‘muscle’ it bumps up against.

It is a recurring theme, large American multi-nationals like Facebook, Google and Amazon all legally avoid paying their fair share of (virtually any ) tax. We have our own homegrown tax dodger’s too , Phillip Green and his Arcadia Group ( Top Shop,Dorothy Perkins ) hide behind his wife and her residency in Monaco in order to shirk his tax responsibilities. Don’t forget poor old doddery wronged McAlpine either, he is no longer a UK resident as a result of his desire to dodge the revenue. Though his construction company still seem to land rather large contracts here, the Olympics being a good example.

Today on the Andrew Marr show, economic wizard George Osborne announced that he too was ‘looking’ at ways to increase the tax revenue from multi-nationals.

Here’s an idea George, tighten up the tax laws ! Revolutionary thoughts i know ! These ‘free marketeers’ are incredibly hands off when it comes to tax revenue from their multi-national chums; yet happy to adapt a hands on, or hands in, approach to the public purse. Bankers need some capital, no problem , the public will quantitatively ease  your woes. Woe betide the unemployed cancer sufferers though, no easing for them. Back to the workforce you go, a job seeking ‘unit’ is a happy unit after all.

I don’t want to hear politicians  saying, like Margaret Hodge did at the select committee, that these companies are immoral. I want them to put in place a rigorous system of taxation and enforce it. Don’t hold your breath though, Hodge nee Oppenheimer isn’t averse to ‘circumventing’ our tax laws either.

Cue curiously  ‘uncurious George’ , “If we make our taxes less competitive that will just mean more companies stay out of Britain.”

Whats that, all those companies that pay virtually no tax might leave…? Good, let’s go one further and tell them to pay up retrospectively or bugger off somewhere else. Because were Starbucks, Google , Amazon , Facebook or Arcadia Group to vanish from the face of the earth tomorrow, people would still drink coffee, use the internet and buy books and clothing. I’m no economic whiz, but surely that is the essence of a free market, and just imagine how this could benefit our society.

Small businesses rising up to supply the  demand, creating enterprises that express individuality and reflect their customer base as opposed to the mind numbing uniformity and conformity of the multi-national model. Guess what, they’d probably pay their taxes as well, most small businesses have to.

Remember the final scene in Dusk til Dawn, where the camera pans out to show a giant chasm behind the ‘Titty Twister’ ? It’s full of the vehicles of the unfortunate punters, who were lured into the bar but realised, too late, that the joint was run by bloodthirsty vampires. Well next time you think of buying a coffee, or a book or deciding which search engine to use or whose clothing to buy, imagine that chasm. It’s full of your money, you’ll never see it again and the vampires are sitting pretty.

But only because we let them. I mean, Selma Hayek is a seriously good-looking woman, but only a fool would drink in the Titty Twister if they knew how the night would end, wouldn’t they…….

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