Cable Slams Foreign Firms Over UK Tax Plans

Alistair Bunkall, Business Correspondent

Vince Cable has told Sky News that he expects the Chancellor to address the issue of tax avoidance by multinational companies in his Autumn Statement next month.

The Business Secretary described the practice as “systematic” and suggested "avoidance involves playing one government off against another".

Chancellor George Osborne recently met with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble to talk about what could be done - it is felt that coordinated international action is necessary.

Mr Cable's comments follow on from an interview that John Lewis managing director Andy Street gave to Sky’s Jeff Randall Live programme on Tuesday evening.

In the interview, Mr Street said that the Treasury needs to do more to prevent the likes of online retailer Amazon "destroying the UK tax base" and potentially putting British companies out of business.

Earlier this week Google, Amazon and Starbucks appeared before the Treasury Select Committee to answer questions on their tax status.

Conservative MP and former tax lawyer Charlie Elphicke has urged the Government to act: "What we've seen over the last decade or so, is income tax paid by you and I has almost double, whereas corporation tax receipts didn't really go up at all.

"Something is not right there and what's not right is an industrial scale of avoidance that is being done particularly by overseas multinationals and it's British business that is being put at a disadvantage."

Starbucks, one of the companies accused of tax avoidance, has previously defended itself.

Starbucks UK managing director Kris Engskov previously told Sky News: "This idea, this suggestion that we don't pay tax in the UK is simply not true.

"Over the last three years we have paid over £160m in VAT, rates and national insurance.

"We don't maybe not pay as much as other companies have paid in corporate tax over the last few years.

He added: "But I got to tell you, and it pains me to admit this at times, but we haven't done as well in the UK as we had hoped to over the last three years.

"We know that corporate taxes are directly related to profitability and it may seem like in the news this is all related to some big sophisticated tax structure but at the end of the day it's about local performance."