Tuesday 13 November 2012

PAC Hypocrisy - Taxation of Multinational Companies

Yesterday the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) questioned the "great and good" from a number of well known multinationals about the "Taxation of Multinational Companies".

The guest list was as follows; Matt Brittin, Chief Executive Officer, Google UK, Troy Alstead, Starbucks Global Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Cecil, Director, Public Policy, Amazon.

The video of the hearing can be watched via this link Taxation of Multinational Companies.

"We are not accusing you of being illegal, we are accusing you of being immoral.” 


As an aside, whilst it is all very well that Margaret Hodge et al get worked up over the percentage of tax paid by these companies in the UK, when compared with their UK turnover etc, Hodge might care to read what Stemcor has to say on the subject.

Who are Stemcor?

Oh that's Hodge's family company, it was founded by Mrs Hodge’s father Hans Oppenheimer over 60 years ago.

As per the Telegraph:
"Stemcor’s tax bill to the exchequer equates to just 0.01pc of the revenues it booked through its UK-based business.

In accounts filed with Companies House, Stemcor revealed that despite generating about one third of its revenues in Britain, its UK tax contribution made up only 2.7pc of the tax the company paid globally."
Here's what Stemcor has to say on the matter (my thanks to loyal reader who pointed me to the statement):
"Several comments have appeared in the press suggesting that Stemcor is involved in tax avoidance in the UK. Stemcor refutes these allegations.

Stemcor’s directors and shareholders are proud of the company’s contribution to the UK economy. As well as creating jobs across the UK, Stemcor has also provided financial support to steelworks in the UK, helping to regenerate the British economy. Stemcor has nothing to hide and is happy to provide more detail about its tax affairs to the media if requested.

Stemcor is almost unique among international trading companies in that it still maintains its headquarters in the UK. Most other such companies have located themselves in low tax jurisdictions, while still having sizeable operations in London. Stemcor’s shareholders have refused to countenance such a move.

In the past 3 years, a total of £14m of corporation tax has been paid by Stemcor in the UK. Stemcor’s effective tax rate internationally in the last three years has been over 30%, much higher than that of other international trading companies. 2011 was, however, not a strong year for the UK operations and margins were squeezed due to the adverse economic climate – this resulted in a very low UK corporation tax charge for that particular year. In 2011 Stemcor paid tax in jurisdictions such as the USA and India, where corporation tax rates are higher than in the UK. It is just an unfortunate fact that the UK operations overall performed poorly in 2011, resulting in a very low UK tax charge.

Stemcor’s consolidated financial statements are audited and signed before the end of March following the December year end and certain assumptions are made in preparing the UK tax computations which support the UK tax charge in those financial statements. In accordance with UK law, UK corporation tax returns are filed any time up to 12 months following that year end. The adjustment of a tax credit of £586k in the 2011 financial statements arose as a result of reconciling the Group’s financial statements back to the UK corporation tax returns for 2010, which were calculated and filed on a timely basis based on UK tax legislation. This resulted in the UK tax charge for 2011 being reduced even further.

Profits in a trading company cannot be compared to profits in a manufacturing company and turnover is no guide to the level of profits made. Stemcor’s annual report for 2011 shows that total international Group profits were only around 1% of turnover, which is typical for many commodity trading companies. However, profits in some of the jurisdictions where Stemcor operates were higher than 1%, while in other jurisdictions the Group made little profit or even losses.

In any international group which has interaction between its worldwide offices, whether through the trading of goods or provision of services, transfer pricing occurs. Stemcor, in accordance with OECD guidelines, regularly monitors the arrangements between its group companies to ensure that its pricing complies with the arm’s length principle and with tax legislation. The Group uses Price Waterhouse Coopers as a consultant to ensure that it pays the correct taxation in the various jurisdictions in which it operates around the world and does not abuse transfer pricing to avoid tax."
Oh, and before I forget, I am reminded by the same loyal reader that Hodge voted for s554E (12) ITEPA 2003 exempting MPs from the disguised remuneration anti avoidance rules.

Tricky thing tax, isn't it?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Never mind the PAC!

    Some things never change, just heard Toyota have made another multi-million car recall, 3m this time. Must have been the result of a 6 Smeg meeting as the whiteboards are still full of how to improve customer experience from the last series of poor customer experience.

    Perhaps this is a new idea from a hub meeting on how to grow the business, raise the bar or some other useless and ineffective piece of oversold and overhyped methodology.

    I know, lets get angels and dragons onto how to improve customer experience re HMRC, it would be a good headliner for Spring/Summer school!


    1. Angels & Dragons no longer exists, its been put out to pasture by Fresh Thinking!

  2. "We are not accusing you of being illegal, we are accusing you of being immoral.”

    How about the HMRC and its campaign of theft? That is immoral too.