Cable vows action on 'tax abuse'

Vince CableThe Government is ready to take action on "systematic abuse" of the tax system carried out by multi-national companies to keep their payments down, Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.

Mr Cable said reports of the low tax bills paid in the UK by highly profitable multi-nationals were "deeply angering" British companies and the Government wanted to "get a grip" on the situation.
He indicated that action can be expected from Chancellor George Osborne, who delivers his autumn statement on December 5.

His comments come after widespread criticism of coffee chain Starbucks and internet giants Amazon and Google over measures they have taken, within the law, to reduce their tax liabilities in the UK.

The managing director of department store John Lewis has appealed to the Government to change the way foreign multinational companies are taxed, warning that otherwise firms based in overseas tax havens will "out-invest and ultimately out-trade" businesses paying full taxes in the UK.

Commenting on the tax arrangements of multi-nationals, Mr Cable told Sky News: "Some of them seem to be avoiding tax systematically and this is deeply angering tens of thousands of British companies who do pay their tax properly, so, yes we've got to get to grips with it."

Asked if measures to address the situation can be expected in the autumn statement, Mr Cable replied: "Yes, I'm sure the Chancellor will address this because there's a lot of public anger which is building up.

"We've been through very difficult times and individuals have seen their standards of living cut. Much of that anger in the past has been directed at the way the banking system has operated but we're now getting evidence of systematic abuse by some companies and that's really got to be stopped."

The comments come two days after bosses from Starbucks, Google and Amazon were subjected to a three-hour grilling by MPs over how they manage to pay little or no corporation tax on their UK operations. All three repeatedly denied the accusation they were engaged in aggressive tax avoidance and were met with derision from members of the Public Accounts Select Committee.

But committee chairman Margaret Hodge called for a boycott of the firms, saying that each of them avoided paying their "fair share" of tax by siphoning profits out of the UK to low-tax jurisdictions.
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