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It's Time for a Corporate Delouse

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On Monday representatives of three of the world's most successful companies were brought before the House of Commons' influential Public Accounts Committee.

Google, Amazon and Starbucks are giants in their field in fact they are giants in every field. Together they are worth £225 billion according to the value of their shares - enough to wipe out Britain's deficit twice over.

In Britain alone the companies have revenues of £6.3 billion a year but pay only £6 million in corporation tax between them and that's all paid by Google.

But according to the three blind mice sent to represent them all is not as it seems.

Despite opening 700 coffee shops in the past 15 years and planning 300 more outlets, Starbucks has been losing money hand over foot - every year except 2006 the company has lost money.

Starbucks is not a money making venture it's a charity, Starbucks' global chief financial officer Troy Alstead tried to convince MPs. It is only 'optimism' that has been keeping it going.

He later explained that Starbucks global, based in Luxemburg, charges a 20% premium to Starbucks UK for its coffee, confident in the knowledge we're all to financially incompetent to understand what that means.

Oh and it loans itself money at high rates and siphons off millions to low tax Amsterdam but calls that money 'royalties' to get around the 'profit' trap.

But that went over my head too so I guess we'll just have to believe Troy when he said: "I can assure you we are not making money."

With such contempt did web giant Amazon treat Britain's elected politician that they sent a man who did not know, or would not say, how much money the company makes in Britain. He did not even know who owns the company based in tax haven Luxembourg.

After the poor-me stories of the other two I almost respected Google UK chief executive Matt Brittin for admitting the company based itself in Bermuda and Ireland to avoid high taxes. The charade would have been funny if it were not so damaging.

It is not just millions of pounds in lost revenue to the Treasury which has to be made up for by the rest of us. Staff are paid at a level which means their wages are subsidised through tax credits and housing benefit.

And they are benefiting from services that they refuse to pay for: when angry protest groups try to smash a Starbucks window it is tax payer funded police that protect them.

But perhaps worst of all is what it is doing to Britain's struggling businesses.

Independent coffee shops and bookshops cannot syphon off profits to Bermuda so they cannot compete on price.

Neither can local newspapers, which have lost so much of their advertising revenue to Google.
High streets stay boarded up, newspapers close down.

It is time for the government to stand up to the global corporate parasites and force them to pay up.