Coffee House

101 questions about tax

17 January 2013

2:25 PM

17 January 2013

2:25 PM

As well as confusing Hansard with talk of ‘big fairies’, Labour’s Jim Sheridan has no fewer than 101 written questions for answer today on how many contracts a number of government departments have awarded to a series of companies known to be taking part in tax avoidance schemes. He also asks for details of how many meetings the departments have held with those companies.

The questions are for the Business department, Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Culture, Media and Sport department, Ministry of Defence, Energy department, Education department, Home Office, Scotland Office and the Work and Pensions department. They ask about ministers’ and officials’ dealings with Amazon, Google, Symantec, Dell CSC, Xerox, and Oracle.


The first two are well-known for paying astonishingly low rates of tax, but Tory MP Charlie Elphicke revealed in the Commons last week that his own research had found that Dell CSC, Xerox and Oracle paid no corporation tax at all last year, despite earning more than £474 million from government contracts. In that debate, Elphicke said:

‘We urgently need reform. No Government contracts should be awarded to businesses that are fleecing our tax system, and the Government should examine how much UK tax companies pay when deciding who gets plum Government contracts. If taxpayers’ money and a Government contract are being awarded, we should look at the taxpayers’ money we are paying out and the tax money that we get back when we assess the value for the nation of awarding a particular contract.’

As the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into tax avoidance showed, there is cross-party revulsion at the practice and so when these answers are published, they will attract attention back onto tax. But as Elphicke argued last week, there needs to be a wider discussion about reform of the tax system itself, not just about its villains, if the government is to avoid situations like this cropping up again and again.

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Show comments
  • aca


    Tax should be paid here because the profit is made here. No more arguement needed.

  • Nelly

    oops… did I break a d notice?

  • Nelly

    where is the LAW that says tax is payable? I can only find judgements that say “sweat equity” is NOT taxable… surely it’s not all a con… isn’t THAT way big business gets away with it… keep ’em stupid… google: capitis diminutio maxima

  • David Britten

    Any company that doesn’t pay UK tax should be denied the right to operate in the UK. Simples…

  • Daniel Maris

    It’s not rocket science. Substitute a turnover tax for a profits tax.

    • eeore

      That would seem to be the answer, but not, as the issue relates to where the corporation is based, not where the profits were generated.

  • Sally Chatterjee

    Surely if these companies “do not pay tax” then Labour and the Treasury are to blame? After all either they created all the very rules that let these companies reduce their tax bills or these companies are breaking the law and must be prosecuted immediately?

    • Daniel Maris

      It is now 2013. The present Tory-led government was elected in 2010. (In case you hadn’t noticed…)

  • toco10

    How about the BBC’s news hacks many of whom are allowed to shuttle their not inconsiderable largesse through limited companies thus enabling such BBC employees to avoid National Insurance,claim expenses against income,pay themselves and presumably their families dividends and employs friends and family.If we were all allowed to indulge in such beneficial tax avoidance the basic rates of income tax would have to rise hugely.Hypocritical or what considering just how often the BBC’s hacks try and claim the moral high ground.Time to ban these tax avoidance practices and not before time methinks.

    • Andy

      I’m not so sure the BBC deals are actually within the Law. They seem to fail the ‘Master, Servant’ test to me. I would say that made the ‘BBC’s news hacks’ employees plain and simple. The Revenue should grow a pair and test it in Court.

      • alexsandr

        surely the BBC ones must fail the IR35 regulations?

  • LB

    So how much VAT did Starbucks pay?

    How much in rates did Starbucks pay?

    How much NI (employer) did Starbucks pay?

    How much tax did the people they pay did they hand over to the treasury?

    How much tax on their insurance did they pay?

    How much customs duty did they pay?


    yeah, only in MPs deluded mind did they not pay tax.

    • MichtyMe

      VAT is paid by the customer and NI by the employees, Starbucks just collects and hands over.

      • LB

        Well, when you ask people on the left, invariably employer’s NI is paid by the company. Just like VAT isn’t it. One’s a tax on jobs, ones a tax on services, paid by the companies.

        Corporation tax is a tax on the shareholders for the same reason.

        • alexsandr

          vat is paid by the customer. everyone else in the food chain claims their vat back as input tax.
          where it breaks is when there is a non VAT business somewhere in the chain or when exempt supplies are made into a taxable item, like making a sandwich from bread, lettuce and ham.

        • Ken

          All taxes are paid by people – companies do not pay tax. If a company pays tax to the government, then someone else is losing out. That someone is the employees and shareholders – all people.

          • LB

            I know that. You know that.

            However, we’ve posters trying to claim that employer’s NI isn’t paid by the employee.

            There’s trying to claim that because the company pays the cheque its the company/shareholders that are the target.

            The proof that this is barmy is VAT. That’s also paid by the company. They write the cheque. So by their logic on Employer’s NI, its the company that pays the VAT.

            It’s barmy logic.

            Employee’s effectively pay all NI, employee, employer NI, is just a label designed to avoid employees working out the extent of their taxation.

      • LB

        Remember the left keeps coming out with how much tax Starbucks does or doesn’t pay on turnover.

        VAT is a turnover tax.

      • Andy

        NI is also paid by employers, which you would know if you had ever employed anyone.

        And VAT is rather more complex than you are leading people to think. It is a pass the parcel tax.

    • Gareth

      So can my local newsagent choose to pay his Corporation Tax in Luxembourg too?


    Are they not paying any tax, or are they not, as multi-national companies, paying tax HERE? There is a difference. And what is meant by saying that they don’t pay tax. Are they paying VAT on the massive sales they generate in the UK? Are they paying Income Tax and NI for all the staff they employ in the UK? Are they paying business rates etc etc.

    Surely a better question would be ‘Why does the UK state believe that all income belongs to it?’

    • alexsandr

      its a matter of fairness. why a british business operating in the UK should pay its taxes, but a multi national doesnt. That disadvantages the british firm. Surely not good

    • telemachus

      Why do some websites of doubtful morals demand Paypal payment
      It is all a matter of income for the requestor