Thursday 6 December 2012

Why we should boycott Starbucks despite their 'kind offer' to pay some taxes.

How very nice of Starbucks to offer to pay some money to make up for the fact that they are an evil tax evading corporation. I guess £20 million is something, considering that they allege to have made a loss for the last 14 out of 15 years trading. Oh, and apparently, despite a turn over of nearly £400 million last year - they didn't pay a penny in tax over the 12 months of trading (nor have they for the last 3 years)

In fact, they have only paid just over £8 million in corporation tax over the last 15 years. By some estimates, they have managed to avoid almost £300 million in taxes over that period, so the offer of £20 million over the next 2 years is peanuts. If I were to offer to voluntarily pay under 10% of the tax I owe - then I would soon be on the way to prison.

Corporations such as Starbucks, Amazon, Boots, Barclays, Topshop, Tesco and Google seem to be getting away with murder. Murder? Well, because these big boys find ways of not paying taxes, and their friends in the ConDem free market party aren't doing much about it, then it is the poor who are paying the price - sometimes with their lives. If you cut spending on the Health service, then people die - especially poor people who have worse access to services already.

I recently had to step foot in a Starbucks. I was a guest at one of those churches who think a 'fresh expression' of church means meeting in a shop that denies access to unions for its staff, and happily avoids paying taxes. I was very courteous, but everyone kept offering to by me a drink, and I kept refusing. How can we condone their behaviour? How could any Christian or indeed any sane human being think that Starbucks behaviour is at all justifiable?

The answer is to boycott until they pay their corporation tax in full. (a measly 21% due to this governments Autumn budget, making the rich pay less whilst squeezing the poor) This payment should include back pay in taxes for the last 15 years.

The Tory argument, is that if you force them to pay their taxes, then they may go and do their business else where. Good, let them go. it might make more space for smaller, local and ethical coffee shops. Ones that are more likely to pay their taxes and employ more people.

UK Uncut are planning a day to highlight Starbucks tax avoidance this coming Saturday. It is perhaps why Starbucks have eventually made this very public offer to pay some tax at last. I'll certainly be looking out for my nearest expression of disgust at these moral criminals. Let's protest at these outrages and boycott Starbucks along with the rest of these greedy corporations, until there is some tax justice!


  1. If you were to voluntarily and legally reduce your tax bill, you would not go to prison, and everyone would want the name of your accountant. If Starbucks had broken the law it would be facing prosecution. It didn't and it isn't. Paying as little tax as possible is what any company is going to do. Paying more tax than necessary is professional incompetence.

    If UK tax law doesn't tax American corporations enough, that's a UK tax law problem, or maybe an EU tax law problem. Beating up the companies who make best use of the laws of Britain is just perverse. However self-righteous it makes us feel.

    Offhand I forget which verse in Micah exorts us to have unions in every business. Yes, the Bible talks a lot about social justice and, yes, the Church has often neglected this aspect of the Gospel. But It doesn't tell us *how* social justice should be implemented. It is quite possible for a large company to treat its employees right without union intervention. And, incidentally, many unions are massively rich and their leaders get paid huge salaries, so maybe there's a social justice issue within unions too?

    "Let's all protest and boycott Starbucks!" I'm sure that will help us to all feel like proper pharisees. Even if, in reality, the local, no-brand coffee shop we go to instead has an unpaid 14 year-old who is falling behind with her school work in order to wash the cups. Because this isn't about changing anything at all, really, is it? It's just about being smug.

  2. It beggars belief that a big corporation can 'offer' to pay tax, like it is some sort of option. Fortunately there are no coffee chains at all in our small town, and lots of great local businesses. It makes it very easy for me to boycott!