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Starbucks made £1.2 billion but pays no tax

Surprise of surprises – multinational child-labour exploiting vendors of pissweak crapaccinos, Starbucks, has paid no tax since 2009. Apparently Starbucks has failed to make a profit in all that time, which might sound genuinely surprising to any who have witnessed dozens of cafes full of people up and down the country.

Comrades in arms Radio Free Brighton interviewed Richard Murphy (of taxresearch.org.uk), involved in collating some of the data and helping to publicising it –  and who was therefore naturally delighted  to explain Starbucks’ legal tax-dodging in detail:

“We [investigators] found that Starbucks has, in the last three years in the UK, made sales of more than £1.2 billion – that’s a heck of a lot of coffee out of 735 shops – and made no money at all; apparently. Well, that’s what they say in their accounts, which means they don’t pay any tax. And yet when you go to their shareholder presentations internationally they say that the UK market is working really well for them, they’re incredibly pleased with the way it’s running, it’s profitable. They are taking the guy who’s been running it back to the US to show everybody else how to run such an efficient organisation, which is delivering so much money for them. And you say hang on a minute, these two stories don’t hang together.

The accounts given to the Revenue are saying that this company is losing money, and the accounts which are being presented to the shareholders say the UK’s doing a great job for you. How can that be? And the answer, when we look at it, comes down to three thing’s fundamentally: one is that Starbucks is paying a significant royalty from it’s UK operation to what we believe is an offshore subsidiary, but we can’t tell you where, we have to admit that, of 6 per cent of it’s total sales, which significantly reduces it’s profit margin.

We can see that it’s buying it’s coffee beans from a Dutch subsidiary, which is owned by a Swiss subsidiary of Starbucks, and it appears there might be some profit movement going on through that mechanism as well. And we can see that it’s funding the UK operation with a very high level of debt, which is tax deductible in the UK but is invariably meaning that the interest is shifted into almost certainly – and I would put my hat on this one without any risk at all – into a low tax jurisdiction subsidiary of Starbucks itself.

So, some significant tax planning going on. All of it legal, all of it within international rules, all of it meaning that a UK operation, which the company itself says is highly profitable, is turning out in their own accounts to be a loss making, non-tax paying company. That’s the sort of problem that we’ve got to challenge. When the tax system is loosing credibility in this way, the profit is not taxed, then we have a real problem. When international companies can actually not pay tax in the UK whilst their next door neighbour, a coffee shop owned by a guy who lives in Brighton and has got one store, is paying tax in the UK then we’ve got something seriously wrong because the whole competitiveness of the UK economy is being undermined as a result, and the whole vibrancy of local communities is being undermined as a result as well. Personally speaking I’d rather go to the local guy but he is going to be forced out of business by Starbucks if they don’t pay tax and he has to.”

And now over to Tom with the weather…

* here’s a not that begrudging link (well its hard data not Op-Ed) to the Guardian, where you too can see graphics and details of a range of international mega-corporations, as well as Starbucks, pay bugger all tax too…

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