Margaret Hodge calls for company tax secrets to be exposed
Britain’s biggest companies should lose their ability to hide their tax affairs behind confidentiality rules, the chair of the powerful Public Accounts Committee has told The Independent.
Margaret Hodge suggested firms could be forced to make full disclosures of their tax affairs to a committee of MPs with the power to hear evidence in private. This would allow close, but crucially confidential, scrutiny of their tax arrangements.
The new committee could be set up along the lines of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), Mrs Hodge proposed. The ISC’s members are appointed by the Prime Minister after consulting with the Leader of the Opposition and hearing nominations from MPs.
Its members are subject to the Official Secrets Act, and Hodge pointed out that there has never been a leak of sensitive information: “We could have a committee of MPs overseeing them in private, the same way that the Intelligence and Security Committee operates. That has operated very effectively. There has never been a leak,” she said.
Her suggestion comes amid mounting public anger at the tax affairs of big companies and their use of aggressive tax avoidance schemes, often aided by the big four accountancy firms.
The PAC has held a number of hearings and has sharply criticised bosses of multinationals for paying little or no corporation tax in Britain, including Starbucks, Amazon and Google.
Today Google boss Eric Schmidt will take to the airwaves to say he is “perplexed” by the debate over the company’s tax affairs.
In a pre-recorded appearance on Radio 4’s Start the Week, the internet giant’s executive chairman insisted the company paid everything it was legally required to in the UK and suggested it was up to the Government to change the law if it wanted more from the firm.
Google has come under fire over reports that it paid only £10m in corporation tax in the UK between 2006 and 2011, despite revenues of £11.9bn.
Mr Schmidt said: “What we are doing is legal. I’m rather perplexed by this debate, which has been going in the UK for quite some time because I view taxes as not optional.
“I view that you should pay the taxes that are legally required. It’s not a debate. You pay the taxes.
“If the British system changes the tax laws then we will comply. If the taxes go up we will pay more, if they go down we will pay less. That is a political decision for the democracy that is the United Kingdom.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also raised the controversy directly with Mr Schmidt at a meeting in Downing Street, and days later Labour’s Ed Miliband told the corporation at its own “Big Tent” event it should not be going to “extraordinary lengths” to avoid paying taxes.
Mr Schmidt dismissed suggestions that a legalistic approach to paying taxes did not sit well with Google’s pledges on social responsibility.
He added: “Our position is very simple, taxes are not optional, we pay the mandatory amount.”i
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...