24 Jan 2013 11:31am

Davos 2013: Cameron calls for global tax crackdown

The prime minister David Cameron has called for global action on tax avoidance in his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos

Those that avoid tax "need to wake up and smell the coffee" Cameron told world leaders, saying “individuals and businesses must pay their fair share.”

The PM said that "trade, tax and transparency" were the UK's economic priorities. He said that as the president of the G8 this year, the UK would continue to focus on cutting down tax avoidance.

They need to wake up and smell the coffee because the public who buy from them have had enough

David Cameron

"Any businesses who think that they can carry on dodging that fair share or that they can keep on selling to the UK and setting up ever-more complex tax arrangements abroad to squeeze their tax bill right down - well, they need to wake up and smell the coffee because the public who buy from them have had enough," he said.

He said that “some forms of tax avoidance” have become “so aggressive” that a global crackdown was needed.

"This is a problem for all countries, not just for Britain," Cameron concluded.

The speech comes after a year in which tax has rarely been out of the headlines, with Starbucks committing a £20m voluntary tax payment after being widely criticised for its corporation tax payments.

Other multinationals including Amazon, Facebook and Google have also come under fire for paying little UK tax.

The prime minister also defended his choice to offer a referendum on the EU after 2015, if the Conservatives win the next election, and said that the 27-member bloc needed to change.

"Europe is being out-competed, out-invested and out-innovated," he said.

In the Autumn Statement in December, the government said it would give HMRC more funds to tackle tax avoidance, evasion and fraud, to meet its target of beinging in an additional £9bn in tax revenues per year.

Members of the Big Four accountancy firms are to be called before the Public Accounts Committee next week to answer questions as part of the investigation in tax avoidance. Witnesses from PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young are set to answer questions  on 31 January, after executives from Amazon, Google and Starbucks were questioned over their tax affairs in November.


Helen Roxburgh


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