Multinationals happily extract profits from countries and then team up with tax havens to avoid paying their share of taxes that make the countries profitable for them in the first place. (Image: /TheRules.org)
Everyone loves to hate a thief. And quite right, too. Google, Amazon and Starbucks – and many more like them – are certainly stealing from the UK and other countries by playing tax systems so aggressively.
But there’s a more important story here that the British MPs and world media are largely missing. In fact, the only ones who haven’t missed it are Google themselves. Matt Brittin, Google’s UK Chief, hit a very important nail on the head when he said, to Channel 4 News this week, “ plays by the rules set by politicians.”
Leaving aside his motivation to shift the blame, the man is not wrong. The rules of the international tax system do not just let this happen, they actively encourage it.
Tax theft is endemic all over the world. It is organised through an intricate system of tax havens; the PR around it is astonishingly good, as evidenced by the fact that most people have no idea of its scale and can get distracted by the misdeeds of a few bad apples rather than seeing the barrel they came in; and one of the most vibrant and important hubs – the City of London - is sitting right under the noses of the British politicians who are today decrying the corporations who use it.