Give the protest - and Starbucks - some credit. This £20m tax ‘donation’ is a step in the right direction

Why condemn a "voluntary" donation if there's no other option?

Share
Related Topics

One thing Starbucks isn’t short on is sweetener; dump all the supplies from 600 UK stores into the Thames and there would – for a minute – be a current of dirty soda churning straight through London. Unfortunately for the coffee giant, however, it takes more than Sweet n’ Low to brighten public opinion. So it was that yesterday afternoon, after widespread protests at Starbucks’ tax avoidance, UK managing director Kris Engskov attempted to remove the bitterness a different way.

In an open letter shared on Facebook, Engskov – formerly an aide to Bill Clinton - trumpeted that Starbucks will pay an additional £20 million in tax to HMRC over the next two years. That's “above the rate required by law” - a gesture prompted by "our customers", who have made their feelings on avoidance “loud and clear” (often on Starbucks own Facebook page:  “I go to costa now... Coffee is better, AND THEY AT LEAST PAY TAX !!!”).

This morning, however, a lot of the Caps-Locked customer bitterness remains. While £20 million is not a sum to be sniffed at, and Starbucks' other commitments admirable (they will no longer offset overseas licensing charges or intra-company loans against tax) the general scepticism - encouraged by tax experts who labelled this voluntary donation a “joke”  - has yet to soften. Top of the Twitter reaction is snark from Gary Lineker: "Starbucks to pay some tax in future. How terribly considerate of them", meanwhile campaigning group UK Uncut announced that tomorrow's protest in Starbucks stores will go ahead as planned, this reform being just a "desperate attempt to deflect public pressure".

Of course, the tax experts have every right to head scratch. First, this sudden flash of generosity hasn't been agreed with HMRC. Second, it whiffs of PR. Third, it makes a mockery of the point that tax should be a legal obligation - not a voluntary one.

But it's hardly Starbucks' fault that the UK tax system hasn't kept up to speed with the increasingly global nature of trade - so why should customers sneer at the company for making a "voluntary" donation? It's not their job to lobby for tax reform. Furthermore it shouldn't matter that this decision was made to "deflect public pressure" as the ends - a more responsible multinational - surely justify the means.

So perhaps, customers have more reason to sweeten up. Starbucks know how closely they will be watched in future, and the fierce chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge MP called this only "a first step in the right direction".  But a bitter note to close on: Google and Amazon have, for the moment, declined to follow suit. And it's far harder to protest these monopolies than Starbucks, who have real competitors just feet away.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing