Over two thirds of Kingston coffee lovers are boycotting Starbucks in anger at the company’s large scale tax avoidance, according to a Kingston Courier survey.
Customers are furious over recent revelations that Starbucks has not paid any income or corporation tax in the UK for the past 3 years, despite sales of £398m last year.
David Williams, a Kingston market stall owner said: “It’s endemic. Everyone is getting up in arms about Starbucks but lots of [big businesses] are doing it.”
Starbucks, Google and Amazon are all under fire for paying relatively low levels of UK tax. Last week the chief executives of the three companies faced a grilling from MPs at the Public Accounts Committee. Starbucks Chief Exective Troy Alstrom was accused of aggressive tax dodging through ‘sweetheart’ deals with the Dutch government.
Mr Alstrom said the company did benefit from a special Dutch deal but said the UK arm of the business was not profitable enough to pay taxes. The company, which has 700 stores in the UK but is officially based in Amsterdam, claims it only turned a UK profit once in the past 15 years.
However, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, questioned why the company continued to do business in the UK if it was not profitable. She went on to say it was right that customers were boycotting Starbucks, Google and Amazon and told Google’s UK managing director Matt Brittin: “We’re not accusing you of being illegal, we’re accusing you of being immoral.”
The backlash against Starbucks’ tax avoidance, however, may be good news for independent coffee chains. Ceridwen Price, a waitress at independent Kingston café ‘Local Hero’ said: “We have been busier in the past few months, though it could just be the Christmas period.”
She added: “I think it’s always better to go to independent cafes rather than a chain because it’s helping small business and local people. The people who own this are local and live in Kingston which is better than giving money to a big chain where you don’t really know who’s going to benefit in the end.”