As time goes by this quote from Peter Mandelson becomes more and more pernicious.
“(I’m) intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes”
Paying tax is a devolution of responsibility. It has nothing to do with morality, beyond the basic responsibility of following the law. None of us has much say in how the money Government takes from us is spent. If you read between the lines Mandelson was telling the “filthy rich” that all they needed to do was pay tax. They did not need to worry about any matters beyond making money and funding the state. The catch is that the “filthy rich” can afford to minimize their tax. Starbucks used their size to create the most tax efficient structure, and if I was a shareholder I would expect nothing less.
What the tax exposé highlighted was that beyond providing jobs and medium standard coffee Starbucks has little interest in the UK. This fact has now become part of the consumer decision making process. Consumers may decide such an attitude is fine or that they would rather buy an equivalent product, which costs the same, knowing that some of their money comes back to them by funding the NHS (not MPs expenses or drone strikes of course). I suspect that one of the reasons Amazon has not felt the need to open their cheque book is because their offering is such good value. In a sense we all benefit from their tax efficiency by paying cheaper prices and this doesn’t harm the economy because we buy more.
Starbucks giving more money to the tax man does not deal with the fundamental problem.
Rather than giving the tax man an extra £20million Starbucks should of either:
a) Not apologize for selling coffee and making profit within the law.
b) Move some of their off-shore activity on-shore, creating more jobs and paying more tax.
c) Invested the money in charities of their (or their customers) choice.
Rather than criticising companies for doing what is legal politicians must tackle the overly complicated tax code. (The Treasury might not be the best place to do this as they seem to love the “smoke and mirrors” the complicated tax code allows them to use.)