Πως γλιτώνουν φόρους τα Starbucks, η Amazon και η Google

Διαβάστε εσείς οι μισθωτοί και υποψήφιοι για φορολόγηση με συντελεστή 45% τι φόρους πληρώνουν στη Βρετανία οι τρεις κολοσσοί. Το κείμενο που ακολουθεί προέρχεται από έκθεση επιτροπής του Βρετανικού Κοινοβουλίου που δόθηκε στη δημοσιότητα τις τελευταίες ώρες.

«Starbucks told us that it has made a loss for 14 of the 15 years it has been operating in the UK, but in 2006 it made a small profit.[19] We found it difficult to believe that a commercial company with a 31% market share by turnover, with a responsibility to its shareholders and investors to make a decent return, was trading with apparent losses for nearly every year of its operation in the UK.[20] This was inconsistent with claims the company was making in briefings to its shareholders that the UK business was successful and it was making 15% profits in the UK.[21] Starbucks was not prepared to breakdown the 4.7% payment for intellectual property (which was 6% until recently) that the UK company pays to the Netherlands based company.[22] The Committee was sceptical that the 20% mark-up that the Netherlands based company pays to the Swiss based company on its coffee buying operations, with a further mark up before it sells to the UK, is reasonable .[23] Starbucks agreed that it had a special tax arrangement with the Netherlands that made it attractive to locate business there, which the Dutch authorities asked Starbucks to hold in confidence, and that Switzerland offers a very competitive tax rate.[24] In addition, there is an inter-company loan between the US Starbucks business and the UK Starbucks business over a period of time with the interest rate set at higher rate than any similar loan we have seen.[25] We suspect that all these arrangements are devices to remove profits from the UK to these areas with lower tax.[26

At the hearing we were frustrated with the representative from Amazon, who we found evasive and unprepared to answer legitimate questions on the company’s structure and the true location of its economic activity.[27]Amazon has subsequently provided this information.[28] Amazon has a reported turnover of £207 million for 2011 for its UK company (Amazon.co.uk), on which it has shown a tax expense of only £1.8 million, however it shows a European-wide turnover of €9.1 billion for its Luxembourg based company (Amazon EU Sarl) and a tax of €8.2 million.[29] Amazon.co.uk is a service company in the UK providing services to Amazon EU Sarl for which it receives payment.[30] That company is owned by a holding company, which is a subsidiary of Amazon’s group companies.[31] Amazon subsequently provided a copy of the unaudited accounts for Amazon Europe Holding Technologies S.C.S for 2011 showing a profit of €301.8 million and no tax payments.[32] Amazon also provided information showing that for 2011, £3.35 billion of sales were from the UK, 25% of all international sales outside the USA.[33] Yet Amazon has over 15,000 staff in the UK, invoices UK customers from the UK, hires UK staff in the UK, has inventory physically in the UK for UK customers and to all intents and purposes has the majority of its economic activity in the UK, rather than in Luxembourg, but pays virtually no corporation tax in the UK.[34] Amazon has received an assessment from the French tax authorities which it disputes.[35]

10. Google explained in its responses that it minimised tax within the letter of the law and that low tax areas or tax havens influenced where it located its group companies.[36]The vast majority of Google’s non-USA sales are billed in Ireland.[37] Google makes money from business to business advertising, adverts which can be targeted to the UK website and to UK Google users[38]. In the UK, Google Ltd recorded revenues of £396 million in 2011, from Google Ireland, but paid corporation tax of only £6 million.[39] Google Ireland paid for the services provided by the 1,300 staff in the UK.[40] Google had approximately 700 staff who undertake marketing work in the UK as part of their activities, but only 200 of Google’s Irish staff of 3,000 were involved in marketing Google in the UK.[41]

11. Google accepted that profits should be taxed in the jurisdictions where the economic activity generating those profits occurred[42] but it asserted that its underlying economic activity arose from the innovative software technology underlying its Google search engine generated by the US company.[43] Google also confirmed that it had an entity based in Bermuda to protect its intellectual property.[44] We consider that the company undermined its own argument since it remits its non-USA profits (including from the UK) not to the USA but to Bermuda and therefore may be depriving the USA of legitimate tax revenue as well as the UK.[45] Subsequently, Google told us that there were no outstanding issues with HMRC about Google UK’s accounts. HMRC is currently carrying out a review of the tax returns filed by Google UK for 2005-11 inclusive and Google told us this is standard practice and that it is co-operating fully with that review.[46]

UPDATE

Οπως διαβάζω στο Euro2day, η Starbucks ανακοίνωσε την Πέμπτη ότι μπορεί να πληρώσει ως και 20 εκατ. βρετανικές λίρες σε φόρους το 2013-14, καθώς παρουσίασε σχέδια για την αλλαγή των λογιστικών της πρακτικών. «Δεσμευόμαστε ότι θα προτείνουμε να πληρώσουμε ένα σημαντικό ποσό σε εταιρικούς φόρους το 2013 και 2014, ανεξάρτητα από το αν η εταιρεία μας θα είναι κερδοφόρα αυτά τα χρόνια» δήλωσε ο managing director της Srarbucks στη Βρετανία, Kris Engskov.
«Ακόμα κάνουμε κάποιους υπολογισμούς, αλλά πιστεύουμε ότι θα πληρώσουμε ή θα προπληρώσουμε περίπου 10 εκατ. βρετανικές λίρες σε κάθε ένα από τα επόμενα δύο έτη» σημείωσε.

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