Yesterday, I secreted myself in the Boothroyd Room to listen to the Public Accounts Committee grilling of Starbucks, Amazon and Google. It was quite an uncomfortable few hours but I felt it was worth it.
After Margerat Hodger announced the charges, Starbucks were called up first and it was no surprise that they argued that royalties were normal business practice. They’re not.
Starbucks should be paying their subsidiaries and franchisees 6% of their turnover for the use of their brand if anything. Just because it’s “commercial” doesn’t mean it’s moral.
The fact that the law says you adjust for an arms length price is misleading. I have quite short arms, which is why I was rejected from being a postman. Other people have long arms. Does the legislation take this into account? I think not.
So, Starbucks are clearly flouting the law by looking at just the wording of the legislation and not trying to guess what each and every single MP was thinking about at the time they enacted every single piece of legislation.
There was a time in this country when a woman (or man) could be taken on her word with reference to her thoughts, motives and desires. Not any more. Everybody is so bloody literal and pedantic nowadays!
You now have to say what you mean apparently! Sorry!
For you idiots, I clearly didn’t mean that. So words clearly aren’t the same thing as their meaning. So words don’t mean anything. That’s why you’re supposed to ignore them!
For example, taking the lying bastard from Amazon.
Amazon are clearly based in the UK. Margaret Hodge was correct to point out that her computer is in the UK and therefore they should be subject to UK corporation tax based entirely on their sales. It says clearly “.co.uk” on their website which is a further indication of their UK-ness (a techincal term).
This principle was established in the case of IRS v Tesco UK Ltd (1935) where the US authorities successfully taxed Tesco on the basis that their online presence is at Tesco.com.
Margaret Hodge is clearly thinking through the principles of her argument and reaching sensible, natural conclusions. We should applaud her for the strain that it has clearly put on her.
But that Frenchman (I think) sat there and lied, saying that he didn’t know everything about Amazon, when clearly he did.
Next up, Dodge laid into Google’s Matt Brittin, who suggested that Google were allowed to consider the rate of corporation tax in deciding where to head-quarter Google in Europe.
Well, in the UK we’re all in this together, which means we expect the Irish to pay their fair share of taxes in the UK too. That’s right, we want 30% of your turnover. Because as far as I can tell, you don’t do anything over there except drink Guinness and Jamesons all day long.
It’s just immoral to think that they would come to Europe and decline to be taxed in the UK. We invented the internet! Didn’t you see the Paralympics opening ceremony? That’s right Stephen Hawking invented the internet and he’s British. So the IRS should sod off and give us all that tax back from Waitrose.com too!
Also, we invented football. Why do Barcelona pay minimal tax in the UK? Bloody Portuguese tax avoiding immoralists.
But the most important thing about this was that Margaret Hodge made the point that of course none of this was illegal, it was immoral.
When we invented the law (don’t get me started on that), we decided that the law should represent the boundaries of morality, but only with regards to The State. Therefore, initially it was considered moral to murder a banker, but not an officer of the Treasury.
This changed when it was pointed out that the banker was a taxpayer and his murder damaged revenues. I imagine we would all like to return to those fundamental principles of justice now.
So you can see it is moral to murder a banker, but not legal, despite the fact that we now have inheritance tax to compensate The State for the untimely death of a taxpayer. In fact, many wealthy people would be more valuable to The State if they were to no longer be alive. Staying alive is a selfish act of tax avoidance in most instances.
But I have digressed.
The point here is that it is simply not ‘fair play’ for people to read the law as it is written and expect that it is some sort of reflection of what we expect to be paid in this country.
Basically, if you want to read the law like that, then expect to be dragged before the court of public opinion on a regular basis and given a harsh sentence of being called ‘immoral’ whilst you pretend that it’s like somebody, I don’t know who, sat down and thought up a bunch of rules that ought to cover this very situation.
They didn’t, alright, and you should bloody well respect that you neoliberal sophists.