Tech giants like Amazon and Facebook ‘avoid £1.5bn in UK taxes’

But by moving money out of the UK they declared a fraction of the profits, radically reducing their tax liabilities. The allegation was made in a damning dossier compiled by TaxWatch. Director George Turner said: “Large US-based technology companies have tens of millions of UK users and make billions in sales to UK customers The UK is inarguably a significant source of corporate profits for these companies. But a glance at the accounts of their UK-based subsidiaries shows that little of this profit ends up in the UK. “

As finance ministers seek to negotiate a new international settlement on how large multinational companies should be taxed, understanding the scale of tax avoidance is key to any deal.” 

TaxWatch says the majority of the £1.5billion is from just two firms. 

They say the largest tax avoider based on its. methodology is Apple, with an underpayment of £517million, followed by Alphabet (Google) with £452million. 

Last year, Amazon made £19.4billion in sales to UK customers, a 50 percent rise on the previous year. 

TaxWatch estimates it avoided £115million in UK taxes in 2019. 

The company, founded in 1996 by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, hit back at the calculations, describing them as “wildly inaccurate”. 

TaxWatch also estimated Microsoft avoided £191million, Facebook £154million, Cisco £68million, Adobe £37million and eBay £33million.

The Daily Express contacted all eight.

Amazon said: "These calculations are wildly inaccurate, and do not include the majority of taxes we pay in the UK. Our total tax contribution in the UK was £1.1billion during 2019 - £293million in direct taxes and £854million in indirect taxes. During 2019, our international consumer business was loss-making as we continued to invest heavily."

Ebay said: "eBay is fully compliant with all tax rules in all the markets in which we operate. Additionally, unlike some other marketplaces, eBay does not pass the UK Digital Services Tax, a two per cent levy on revenues, to sellers in the form of fee increases. Instead, eBay pays this eight-figure sum in order to prevent this tax from being passed onto small businesses."

Adobe said: "Adobe complies with the tax laws in all the countries in which we do business."

Microsoft said: "Microsoft is fully compliant with all local laws and regulations in every country in which we operate. We serve customers in countries all over the world and our tax structure reflects that global footprint."

Apple: "We are proud of Apple's many contributions to economic development and job creation across the UK through the hundreds of thousands of iOS App Economy jobs, more than 1,000 suppliers and our expanding workforce. As the largest taxpayer in the world, we know the important role tax payments play in society and we pay all that we owe everywhere we operate. In fact, over the past decade we have paid more than $100billion in corporate income taxes around the world, and billions more in other taxes."

Cisco: Did not respond 

Facebook said: “Under the current tax rules we pay the vast majority of the global tax we owe in the US. Last year we paid $4.23billion in corporate income taxes globally and our average effective tax rate over the last decade was more than 20 percent. We have long called for reform of the global tax rules and want the current international talks to succeed.’’

Google: Did not respond 

Dame Margaret Hodge, former Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “It is not only unfair and immoral but it is killing off British businesses who pay their taxes.”


Comment by Dame Margaret Hodge

It is outrageous those who have done best out of Covid have contributed the least to building back better. 

These companies have created complex structures that serve no other purpose than to avoid tax. 

The scandalous thing is they all need what taxes pay for – a healthy, well-educated workforce, reliable communications and transport – all of which are funded by taxpayers. 

And they are simply not contributing their fair share. 

Some 85 percent of us pay our taxes without question through PAYE. It is outrageous these really wealthy companies do not. 

It is not only about doing the right thing but funding the services needed and giving people who pay their taxes faith in the system. 

It is not only unfair and immoral but it is killing off British firms who do the right thing and pay up. 

Amazon can cut prices because they don’t pay their fair share. It means they get a huge and unfair advantage over our high-street businesses. 

All we are asking is these companies pay their fair share of tax from the profits made here. 

Not meeting their obligations is scandalous when we’re all meant to be in it together. 

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