David Cameron seeking action on tax avoidance at EU summit

David Cameron in Brussels Mr Cameron is calling for a US-style cross-border tax information exchange

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David Cameron is urging EU leaders to back global action against tax evasion and "aggressive" tax avoidance that is causing nations "staggering" losses.

The prime minister is meeting his European counterparts in Brussels to discuss ways of cracking down on those who do not pay their fair share.

It comes amid a row over the tax paid by firms like Google and Amazon.

The CBI has warned politicians not to "moralise" about tax or rush to judgement without the facts.

The business lobby group said paying tax was not "optional" and that firms must make "responsible judgements" with the interests of their shareholders, stakeholders and society at large in mind.

'No absolutes'

But it warned politicians against engaging in a "moral debate" over the issue and said they must consult with business before introducing any new rules.

"As politicians pursue fairness it is important that any criticisms are grounded in fact and hasty solutions or political point-scoring do not trigger long term unintended consequences," the organisation's chairman Roger Carr said.

"Tax avoidance cannot be about morality - there are no absolutes."

He urged Mr Cameron and other leaders "to fix the rules internationally, not unilaterally", adding that "independent action can cost competitiveness and cause confusion".

Start Quote

Talking tough on tax, whilst continuing to usher a third of the world's wealth into UK tax havens, risks making a mockery of David Cameron's leadership at the G8 Summit in June”

End Quote Oxfam

The taxation issue is on the agenda of the latest EU summit - which will also discuss energy policy - at the request of the UK, France and Germany.

Mr Cameron wrote to EU leaders ahead of the meeting urging a US-style cross-border tax information exchange. The UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy are currently testing such a system and want to launch it by the end of the year.

Mr Cameron also wants G8 and EU meetings to include country-by-country reporting of where companies pay their tax.

As he arrived at Wednesday's meeting, the prime minister said competitive tax rates were vital for securing investment but firms must abide by the rules.

"That means international collaboration, sharing of tax information," he said. "It is important that we make sure we act together to make sure we do everything on this agenda."

The BBC's Europe Correspondent Matthew Price said there was "growing unity" about the issue across the EU, with an estimated one trillion euros lost every year due to individuals and companies not paying as much tax as they could do.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband has accused the prime minister of not backing up his rhetoric with "concrete proposals" and said a future government led by him would be prepared to act on its own in the UK.

Low-tax regimes

After the four-hour summit, Mr Cameron will travel to Paris to meet French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace where co-operation on tax evasion and avoidance as well as tackling corporate secrecy will again be on the agenda.

The meetings come two days after Mr Cameron wrote to 10 British overseas territories and crown dependencies, including the Cayman Islands and the Isle of Man, urging them to "get their house in order" and sign up to international treaties on tax. Critics claim such places, which operate low-tax regimes, are used by companies for tax avoidance or evasion.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt The party leaders have been under pressure to raise the issue with Google boss Eric Schmidt

Tax avoidance, where companies operate within the rules to avoid paying taxes, and tax evasion, which is outside the law, have risen high on the political agenda in recent months.

High-profile companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks have faced criticism in the UK for the low levels of tax they appear to pay compared with the size of their businesses.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Miliband accused Google of going to "extraordinary lengths" to limit UK tax payments.

'Cat and mouse'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was unsurprising that firms were trying to exploit the "crack and crevices" of national tax laws and said he had raised the issue with Mr Schmidt at a Downing Street reception earlier this week.

The government was reducing corporation tax, he said, and, in return, it expected firms to pay their fair share of tax.

He acknowledged individual countries' tax systems were often "arcane" and were struggling to keep pace with "disembodied" businesses operating across national borders.

"We have got to make sure the rules apply much more evenly and strictly across the piece and so big companies cannot play cat and mouse with different national tax administrations," he said.

Apple boss Tim Cook defended the firm's practices when he appeared before the US Congress on Tuesday, insisting it complied with both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Oxfam, meanwhile, has suggested people using tax havens are depriving the world of more than £100bn in lost revenue.

"Talking tough on tax whilst continuing to usher a third of the world's wealth into UK tax havens, risks making a mockery of David Cameron's leadership at the G8 Summit in June," its head development finance and public services Emma Seery said.


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  • Comment number 441.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    only a idiot believes anything dave the liar Cameron says after all wasn't that the same dave who claimed he would reform the banks if other EU countries did but as soon as they agreed he suddenly stated he did not want to limit the bankers here so did another u turn just like he will over tax evasion after all its how he got his money taxes paid by taxpayers not his father who avoided them

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Do you know that a major part of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was design by an American company – General Electric? When USA asked our BP for the impossible compensation for the oil leak accident, have they thought of giving compensations to the nations in Pacific Ocean?

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    418.Bob Roberts

    "...Selling state assets is not treason at all..."


    In the UK as it is, with no constitution of which to speak, that's a reasonable thing to say.

    However, state assets=public ones, and if the sovereignty of the people were supreme, and such a sale took place without due authority, then there's a case to say it would be treason. Another reason why we need reform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Is my memory failing. Isn`t it only a couple of years ago that DC TOLD the EU that they would never be allowed to set finanacial regulations in the UK.

    Now he seeks EU co-operation to bring under control loopholes that this and previous governments have left for use. As, according to DC, we set our own laws why doesn´t he correct them. Instead of procrastinating, or should that be posturing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    #433 - the companies do operate to the letter of the law, but as various govts have tried to pander to specific sectors the law has many missing letters :-) The spirit of the law has, before anyone mentions it, nothing to do with it whatsoever, it is the written law that is important :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Income tax, capital gains tax, stamp tax, vat, inheritance tax and on it goes. I think the wealthy are less likely to feel the pain like most of us and there must be a way of getting around the inheritance tax.....

    When all is said & done...tax is hateful. Politicians use it as a tool of manipulation and when they aren't ... squandering our taxes on bad decisions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Why is it so few, Politicians, ever log on to this website and post a comment?

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    417 - make the laws simpler, AND make it clear that no tax dodge using the letter of the law will be allowed. It would mean an end to the principle "if it's not specifically banned then you can do it" - which is mostly why of course we have such complicated tax laws.,

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    426 union strength is also its weakness. Everyone is free to withdraw their work. It must also be allowed to withdraw employment
    425 gov can redirect funds from less important activities if there is need. issuance of shares costs in the long term. it is debt. gov can even print cash if need be... it does so for many worse reasons.
    423 you dont need to tell me, i taught.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    @420.adriancannon ,
    Even though there are no true libertarian countries, those countries that have the closest resemblance to libertarianism also tend to have the best economies. The fact is that liberty tends to attract the best and brightest. Such as low tax rates attracting companies, or if there was a lack of I.P. laws one could set up a factory to produce pharmaceuticals and export them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    @409. naughty rabbit
    David Cameron is not initiating anything. Tax avoidance was rife under Labour but if anything has become worse under George Osbourne. He has big-time tax avoiders in his Government (Lord Green?). Yes Ed Milliband is a serial bandwagon-jumper, but the Lib Dems did have some manifesto commitments and would maybe have fewer vested interests holding them back from implementing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    #427 none as it is a registered charity

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    @418 Bob Roberts,
    I fear so, although I hope I am wrong. There is no viable opposition, and little debate internationally about restraining the corporate state. Corporations are now citizens in the US. The centre ground is shifting to the right. Think Tanks, Lobby groups, political donations, media control..

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    How much tax does Eton school pay??

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    #416 "They are free to reinvest every penny into efficiency or service" They never do and never have as they are not having to "earn" the money - they see it as their right to be given it and so it is wasted. Check the history of nationalised companies and very few, if any, reinvested eg BT, GPO, BR, B

    Unions got hold and prevented dynamic operation that is essential to business survival

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    The problem is that there is little scope for investment from the sale of shares. A government enterprise has only bank loans and re-invested profit. Even if the private enterprise has to pay dividends, that is in return for extra external investment.
    Raise inheritance tax then, not income tax. How would these wages be revalued?
    Try the EDL website instead then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    For multi-national companies doing business across many countries/borders e.g. Apple, I propose that where the Revenue is earned in £ then the company pays tax in £'s, where the Revenue is earned in Euros the company pays tax in Euros (to the ECB), where the company earns Revenue in America it pays in Dollars - that way each country receives a portion of tax paid under their "local" tax laws!

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    @416.beebalert ,
    The problem with public services is that the millstone is then around the necks of the taxpayers, and those public services have less of a tendency to improve quality. Even regarding education, I remember when I was younger, talking to maths teachers who were telling me all the topics they covered when they were in school and how it had all been dumbed down over the years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    It is. Assets produce raw utility value indefinately for which you need not pay a premium. Money is only the potential to do so and is frequently debased. In order for it to be in the state interest you'd have to get enough money to buy the product of the utility in perpetuity through investment income and then some.


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