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HMRC 'extremely timid' over pursuing tax avoiders

A committee of MPs has accused Google of providing a "deeply unconvincing" explanation of its tax affairs amid reports that the company paid only £10m in corporation tax in Britain between 2006 and 2011, despite revenues of £11.9bn. Google maintains that it complies with all UK rules.

Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at Essex Business School, told Today programme presenter John Humphrys that he believes the fault lies, at least in part, with HM Revenue & Customs:

"HMRC have been extremely timid. Their performance compared with their international counterparts for example in the US has been extremely poor."

Jim Harra, HMRC Director General of Business Taxation, explained HMRC's position:

"Ultimately all we can do is enforce the rules but we do look at the behaviour of large businesses and the extent to which they are trying to exploit or bend those rules."

"Where they do so we tackle them if we possibly can and if the rules are not efficient to enable us to do that then we give advice to politicians about how the rules can be developed to better protect us."

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday 13 June 2013.

  • 13 Jun 2013