Jim Armitage: And will the taxman be laughing over Vitol?


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The Independent Online

Outlook George Osborne alighted on technology businesses for his Tory conference speech. This is understandable, because it is so easy for such businesses – much of whose revenue comes from selling virtual goods on the internet – to claim their marketing teams offshore make all the decisions.

But, lest we forget, the practice of shifting profits to tax haven locations is equally common in many other industries, such as commodities trading. The Independent recently revealed how oil trading house Vitol tells the taxman its highly paid traders in London are actually just brokers, acting on the orders of their bosses in Switzerland.

This structure is entirely legal, and it is very difficult to see how any multinational agreement on tax will include Swiss co-operation.

Sadly for Vitol, we caught the boys in London on tape fessing up to being traders. It remains to be seen what HMRC makes of that…