'No easy tax ride for big business'

AmazonTaxmen are not giving an easy ride to multinational companies, the chief of HM Revenue and Customs has insisted.

HMRC chief executive Lin Homer came under fire from MPs on a Westminster spending watchdog committee, who said the tax collector was failing to pursue global giants as hard as it would individuals or small businesses which did not pay their share of tax.
MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee told Ms Homer that the public could not understand how companies like Google or Amazon could pay only a tiny fraction of their UK profits in corporation tax - or in the case of coffee-shop chain Starbucks no corporation tax at all over three years.

"It smells, and it doesn't smell of coffee," said Conservative MP Richard Bacon. "It smells bad."

The committee heard HMRC estimates that there was a "tax gap" of £32 billion in 2010/11 between the amount owed and the amount collected - 6.7% of total tax liabilities.

But Mr Bacon told Ms Homer: "There is an enormous gap, and the biggest gap is in your credibility."

And the committee's Labour chair Margaret Hodge told Ms Homer that the figures were "deeply disappointing" and suggested HMRC was "failing to get a grip on tax avoidance".

"There's a mood of anger out there and huge frustration that ordinary people and small businesses feel that they are hassled by you and if they don't pay their tax someone will quickly come and... get the money from them, whereas if you are a big corporation you might be invited in for a cup of coffee at HMRC," said Ms Hodge.

The committee chair said it appeared that "no stringent, fair, equal effort" was put into making sure the big companies paid their full share of tax.

But Ms Homer insisted: "We apply the rules fairly across the piece. We pursue the tax which is owing... There is one system and it applies to all."
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