PRESS RELEASE: New Taxwatch report estimates UK is losing £1bn a year in taxes to profit shifting by just 5 companies
A new report released today by Taxwatch, finds that profit shifting by just 5 tech companies could be costing the UK up to £1bn a year in lost revenues.
The data, which is being released the day before the Chancellor gives his budget on Monday, shows that despite a supposed crackdown on international tax avoidance, government is still failing to grapple with the problem.
The report, seeks to estimate the amount of profits made by Facebook, Google, Apple, Cisco Systems and Microsoft on their sales from UK customers. This figure is then compared to the profit declared by the companies in their main UK subsidiaries.
In total Taxwatch estimates that in 2017 these five companies earned revenues of £23.4 bn from UK customers. Taxwatch further estimate that profit attributable to these sales was £6.6bn, which at the prevailing rates would have given a tax liability of £1.26bn.
The profits declared in the accounts of the UK subsidiaries of these companies, and their tax liabilities, were far less. In total, the accounts of the main UK subsidiaries of the companies in the Taxwatch study suggested a combined tax liability of £191m. This is more than one billion pounds less than we calculate would have been due if the accounts of the UK subsidiaries more accurately reflected the revenues and profits made from UK customers.
Commenting on the release of the report – George Turner – Director of Taxwatch said:
“The fact that tech companies have been engaged in industrial scale tax avoidance has been well known for a long time. Our study shows that the attempts by government both on an international and domestic level to tackle the issue have barely scratched the surface of the problem.
“HMRC estimates that corporate tax avoidance costs the UK just £700m a year. Although it freely admits that it does not count avoidance via profit shifting in its estimate of the ‘tax gap’, our study shows that the government is vastly underestimating the scale of tax avoidance by multinationals operating in the UK.
“At £1bn a year, the tax losses to the UK from profit shifting by just 5 companies are enormous. But the tech 5 are not the only companies doing this. The total losses to the UK from profit shifting will be much higher.
“Government must do much better to ensure that taxes on profits made in this country, are paid in this country. What is needed is a rethink by government and international bodies of how multinationals are taxed, and an acceptance that the current approach just isn’t working.”
Notes to editors
1. Tax Watch UK is a new investigative think tank which aims to broaden public participation in the debate on tax. We monitor and report on the tax payments of large companies working in the UK, and research tax strategies used by companies and wealthy individuals. Our aim is to provide the unbiased and independent information necessary to allow the public to hold the government and major tax payers to account. We also analyse and put forward policy proposals for improving the tax system with the goal of creating a fairer tax system for all.
2. The table below sets out the total estimated impact of profit shifting by Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Google and Apple between 2012 and 2017. A detailed breakdown of the results of each company is included within the report.
3. The full report can be viewed on the Taxwatch website here: http://taxwatchuk.org/corporate-tax-and-tech-companies-in-the-uk-2/