Am I alone in wondering why Starbucks is getting so much stick about not paying its taxes in the UK?
And Google. And Amazon. And (getting surprisingly less stick) Vodafone.
Yesterday, Janet Street-Porter (whom I rate vary highly) wrote a piece for The Independent headlined GOOGLE, AMAZON, VODAFONE AND STARBUCKS MIGHT NOT BE BREAKING LAWS. BUT THEY DESERVE TO BE PUNISHED.
Why should anyone or any company be punished for not breaking any laws? Should you be punished for not breaking the law? Should I be punished for not breaking the law?
Admittedly, Starbucks’ PR is utter shit.
Saying they will, out of the goodness of their corporate heart, pay a flat sum of £20 million totally unrelated to any percentage of their profits is simply shooting themselves in their very large, clown-like feet.
But, if the law allows them to do what they have been doing – paying only 1% of their UK profits in tax over the last 14 years – then do not blame Starbucks, blame the British government, blame Parliament and blame the taxman.
If the law is not what the government and the public want, then change the law. And do not change it retrospectively.
If I park my car outside a house and the government or local council does not want me to do that, then paint a double yellow line on the road. Don’t paint a double yellow line on the road and then fine me for parking illegally on the road before it had a double yellow line and when parking there was perfectly legal.
Jimmy Carr got crucified in the same way.
His accountant sorted out his tax perfectly legally and in the most efficient way for Jimmy… and then the government complained he was wrong in acting perfectly legally…
If the law is an ass, then don’t blame the people or companies who ride the ass. Don’t ask people to kiss the English legal system’s ass. Change the law.
3 responses to “Janet Street-Porter is wrong; Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Jimmy Carr are right”
This is the first sensible analysis of the corporate tax question I have seen in print. All this passive-aggressive victim-style reaction is why the English earned the sobriquet “whingeing poms”. My theory is, they won’t change the law because they enjoy whingeing so much.
Sure – no one should be punished if they’re not breaking the law but do you seriously think the law would be written the way it is unless Starbucks, Amazon and the others didn’t exert substantial pressure via lobbyists and high-level government contacts? It’s naive to suggest that Starbucks and the others just sat back as an overly generous and patently unfair tax environment grew up around them. These multinational companies have huge ‘governmental affairs’ departments and lobbying firms working tirelessly on their behalf to ensure the tax system is rigged in their favor. It’s one thing to be law-abiding. It’s another thing to use your power and influence to shape the law so that your unethical behavior falls within the bounds of legality. I say ‘string ’em up’!
if the only motivation people have to act ethically is to avoid punishment, thats a pretty low standard to set.