LONDON — British lawmakers on Monday accused major multinational companies of aggressive tax avoidance, amid calls by the U.K. government for a global crackdown on firms that seek to evade taxes.
In sometimes bitter exchanges at a three-hour parliamentary committee hearing, legislators questioned Starbucks, Google and Amazon about the amount they pay to the U.K. government in taxation.
Lawmakers scoffed as Troy Alstead, Starbucks global chief financial officer, claimed that the fact the coffee giant had reported losses for all but one of the 15 years it has operated in the U.K. was because of poor performance — and not an attempt to minimize its taxes in Britain.
You have run the business for 15 years and are losing money and you are carrying on investing here. It just doesn't ring true, said Margaret Hodge, head of parliament's Public Accounts Committee.
Matt Brittin, chief executive of Google UK, told the committee that his company picked Ireland and Bermuda as main bases because tax rates were favorable. Brittin denied one lawmaker's accusation that the Internet search giant was breaching its own code of Don't be evil.
We comply with the law in the U.K., he said.
Hodge fired back, saying lawmakers were not accusing you of being illegal, we are accusing you of being immoral.