Anti-austerity protestors target Starbucks cafes

LONDON Sat Dec 8, 2012 6:41pm GMT

1 of 4. A masked demonstrator leaves a Starbucks coffee shop in central London December 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Hundreds of demonstrators protested at Starbucks cafes across Britain on Saturday accusing the U.S. coffee chain of avoiding paying corporation tax at a time when the government was cutting essential services because of a fall in revenues.

At one central London outlet activists from the anti-austerity UK Uncut movement staged a sit-in, chanting "Starbucks pay your taxes" and briefly setting up a children's crèche before police moved them on.

Protests were held at more than 40 of the multinational's cafes, including in Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff, UK Uncut said. The demonstrations were held two days after Starbucks said it would pay around 20 million pounds ($32 million) in British corporation tax over the next two years.

Its announcement came after weeks of criticism in the media and parliament following a Reuters report which said Starbucks had paid no corporation tax in Britain over the past three years while telling investors the local business was highly profitable.

Starbucks' tax offer was just a "massive PR stunt", said Rosie Rogers, a 26-year-old UK Uncut activist, outside one of the chain's London restaurants.

"If Starbucks, if all the tax avoiders, paid their fair share, 25 billion pounds could be put back into public services and enrich our economy," she said.

At a nearby Starbucks cafe protesting women lay down in sleeping bags in a symbolic transformation of the outlet into a women's refuge, a service they say has been hit by state spending cuts.

Finance minister George Osborne said on Wednesday his plan to rid Britain of a record deficit would take even longer than expected, extending the shrinking of state spending another year to 2018.

Ahead of the protests Starbucks appealed directly to its customers in newspapers adverts reprinting its pledge to pay corporation tax in Britain.

"We know we are not perfect. But we have listened ... We hope that over time, through our actions and our contribution, you will give us an opportunity to build on your trust and custom," UK managing director Kris Engskov said in the adverts.

The company says it has always acted legally since opening in Britain in 1998 and is not hiding big profits from tax authorities. Despite serving 2 million British customers a week the firm says high rents for its prime location cafes have made it hard to turn a profit.

(Writing by Tim Castle; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Comments (2)
ema123 wrote:
Christmas is a time for charities, and Starbucks has always been big on charities…
So why is tax so important?

Tax is our contribution to our infrastructure, social, medical, military and economic welfare – unity is strength. In our country education, child care and health will never be a charity.

In 100 years charities have achieved very little. They have no accountability, making more money if they show suffering. They reduce the wages of some of the hardest working. A country rich in diamonds bullied by its neighbours needs real help, but instead we appease our guilt with a little thoughtless donation, which puts a little food in the pockets of those with the guns.

The rich often avoid taxes, paying less as a percentage of their income than the less well off – where their wealth often reflects more corruption and abuse of a mature economy than any real entrepreneurship. They even use charities to avoid tax.

We pay taxes, we expect everyone to contribute fairly and we expect our government to invest in us and build and enforce the values we stand-by.

Happy Christmas!

Dec 08, 2012 7:35pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
CO2-Exhaler wrote:
This is a very embarrassing issue for the government, because it appears to show the utter ineptitude of HMRC. The fact is, that for decades and possibly centuries, sham arrangements to avoid tax have been illegal. So either Starbucks and these other corporations are acting within the law, or they are not. If they are acting within the law, it is very difficult to understand why they would make a voluntary donation to HM Treasury of £20 million, and there’s absolutely no reason why they should do so. On the other hand…

The simple fact is that HMRC must grow a pair and start using that funny old thing called the law of the land to make sure that big corporations pay their tax. I realise this is a totally radical proposal, but as a taxpayer I feel obliged at least to put it on the table.

Dec 09, 2012 12:12am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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