Sketch: Getting to the bottom of Starbucks' tax arrangements is a study in exasperation

 

Share
Related Topics

If nothing else the questioning of the country’s top taxperson was a study in exasperation today. Understandably, the Commons Public Accounts Committee was eager, desperate even, to find out from Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, how it was that Starbucks managed to pay a trifling £8.6million in corporation tax on UK sales of - wait for it - £398million.

The first problem was that HMRC does not discuss individual taxpayers, if a global giant with 600 outlets in Britain alone, can  be so described, meaning that Committee chairman Labour’s Margaret Hodge took to referring it  as “the company we are not allowed to name” Ms Hodge, it must be said,  does exasperation extremely well - a strangled, incredulous  “ha” here, a tight little shrug of her elegant  shoulders there, as if  her whole body was convulsed by frustration. “You can’t say that,” she said in response to one of Ms Homer’s blander answers.” She can,” the equally exasperated Tory Richard Bacon told her. “She just did.”

Last month the chain’s finance chief  told the Financial Times that “I look forward” to it paying more tax. Had he harboured a fervent desire  to hand billions to the  Revenue but had been prevented by hidden forces? No  it was merely that they had lost a packet  on a mistaken “land grab” in its early days - and had  to pay a mysterious six percent “royalty” to the Netherlands regional HQ. 

The Bacon-Hodge duo,  who work a kind of cross-party hard cop, hard cop routine, were unimpressed. Saying - without naming names, of course - Bacon said  it “beggars belief  that such a a large entity can pay so little in corporation tax”  only, it seemed,  possible because the company had been “architected” that way. The syntax was terrible but the meaning clear.

So exasperated was the committee that at times it  rode  roughshod over the answers from the - to be fair, unintimidated - Ms Homer, who at one point  pleaded to get a word in edgeways. She insisted  that HMRC was working well within agreed rules and procedures. In that case, for the public, said Bacon  “you’re making a really bad job of explaining it.”

Starbucks is only one example of the low tax multinationals reeled off by Ms Hodge today, including Google, Amazon, Asda,  Facebook, Intel, Kraft, Coca Cola. But it is the first expected to appear before Ms Hodge next week. You can only wish them  luck.   

React Now

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

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone