How Low Can You Go?

This is only a short article.

I think it’s an issue where you need to look at all the different arguments, which I can’t paraphrase well here.

I passed on a link to an article yesterday regarding Starbucks in the UK. If you didn’t read it, it was a story on how they have paid less than one million pounds sterling in corporation tax per year for the past 14 years. In all, £8.6m over 14 years. Not too much really, when in 2011 they had £397.7 million in turnover. Granted they did pay “PAYE, National Insurance, …business rates, VAT”, so it’s not like they didn’t pay any tax. Just no corporation tax. I don’t mean to beat this drum two days in a row, but hey ho, that’s how it goes. From my understanding of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs website (with help from Wikipedia), the main rate of corporation tax is between 24-28%. I don’t know all that much about economics, or even maths, aside from some pretty basic tenets, but I’m pretty sure 24% of £397.7 million is a bit more than £0. Maybe.

So companies get away with tax avoidance – which is technically all they have done – and it’s not much new. There is an interesting infographic from The Guardian on some facts about who pays what tax, it’s worth a look, but beware if numbers give you the heebie jeebies.

[I think you can make your own caption]

Jimmy Carr, a fairly famous English comedian, was personally shamed by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, for exactly the same thing. Where is the government shaming of companies that engage in the same practice? Interestingly, it is more likely to be an international company that gets away with something like this, by paying certain monies to different parts of the company in different countries. It’s clever. And legal. If people do it, you can shame them publicly. If big companies do it, you should probably invite them to donate money at your next party conference…

I am not suggesting companies do not contribute in many ways to society. As noted, Starbucks paid it’s other dues and does provide employment to ‘baristas’ (or as I like to call them: art students). But are they really allowed to pick and choose? The government would chase me up if I didn’t pay taxes (They send bills faster than cheques…).

But wait, I hear you say, companies and people can not be equated. Alas, Corporations, as we learned yesterday, are considered, in a legal sense, as people. And obviously some people, just like some animals, are more equal than others.

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