Don’t Be Evil
03/06/2013 Leave a comment
Do you remember when we had that big scandal surrounding MP’s expenses? And we found out all the crazy things they had been claiming for? And then they said that it was ok because their claims had been within the letter of the law?
I can’t help but spot the irony when, in more recent weeks, companies such as Google, Amazon and eBay have been summoned in front of MP committees to explain why, in spite of lots of sales, they have managed to pay so little tax in the UK.
“We’ve paid every penny according to the letter of the law!” They claim.
“But it wasn’t in the spirit of the law!” Say the MPs (who have presumably found some kind of salvation in the intervening months).
Since their dodgy expense claims were exposed, MPs seem to have had developed a sudden fetish for these televised committees in which they, (the goodies) can heap their new-found morality on the baddies – G4 security, the BBC, the newspapers, tax savvy multinationals etc. But has the fastening of these people in the metaphorical stocks, while our MPs throw their metaphorical rotten vegetables really achieved anything?
I’ll be clear – I don’t think Google et al should get away with paying so little in tax but this mock outrage from MPs gets my goat. Should we really be that surprised that a company turns out to be a bit of a shit just because their motto says, “Don’t be evil”?
It’s a nice thought but in reality it is simply unreasonable to assume that when you have tax loopholes in your system, someone (most likely a big and powerful someone) won’t take advantage of them. Companies will look at what the negative publicity will cost their shareholders and will look at what the reduced taxes will give their shareholders and they will make their decision based on that. If they didn’t they would be being negligent to their shareholders.
There is, of course, one way for our MPs to address this and that is to close those loopholes. These companies sell a lot of stuff here and make an awful lot of profit here. If the laws of the land don’t turn any of these profits into tax revenues then it is time to change the laws of the land and guess who makes them?
It’s up to our government to make sure that the loopholes are closed and it is fairly daft to expect these companies to pay tax that they could legally avoid because of “morality”. Yes, I’m sure our MPs all feel like paragons of virtue when they sit on their committees but let’s all be sensible here – these companies are concerned with profits, not morality and to be honest why shouldn’t they be?
When the UK has exploitable tax laws then it is the duty of our MPs to make them non-exploitable, not to faff around trying to play the morality card. And while we’re on that subject let’s be brutally honest here – given their history, these guys have absolutely no right to play that card.