Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] — Tax Avoidance and Multinational Companies

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 3rd February 2016.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Labour, Bishop Auckland 4:31 pm, 3rd February 2016

I was trying to distinguish between real intellectual property and intellectual property that is purely branding. Take the example of the BBC, which sells television programmes. The BBC can get more money for its television programmes than a small television production company, partly because it is called the BBC, even though the actual costs of making the television programme are the same.

The question we have to ask ourselves is whether, because of the high value of the brand, the company should pay less tax. I submit that that is a fundamental mistake, because the brand is an asset. What the company is getting in that situation is economic rent. The fact that it has a valuable asset is not a reason for it to pay less tax. That is absurd. If a company invests in a piece of machinery and makes a claim against its capital allowance, over time the amount that it can claim against tax decreases as it moves from the point at which the investment was made. In cases where the brand is the asset, companies are claiming more over time as they are selling more. I think that is an area where we could very usefully tighten up.

Perhaps this area of tax would be better handled if we had a few more economists looking at the underlying economics and fewer accountants, who seem very comfortable with the way the system works but are not driven by the desire that the rest of us have to make sure that these people pay their fair share.