There was a letter published in the Daily Telegraph today (here), in which 35 business leaders gave their support to George Osborne's plans to cut spending. They say that extending the time it takes to reduce the deficit (and by extension the debt) will cause greater suffering for the country. A couple of names of the corporations made me think it could be worth having a quick Google to see the type of people who were so adamant in their support of the country, and the urgency in reducing the country's debts.
Two things make up a deficit - the amount of money that the country is spending, and the amount that the country has coming in. Guess what? It doesn't look like some of these companies are too keen on the second part of this.
Asda campaigned against a crackdown on a tax loophole allowing builders to be "self-employed" while working for one company (here), paid some of their top earners early to allow them to avoid the 50% tax rate (here), paid £115m to the authorities after over-paying royalties to Wal-Mart (here). It appears that Asda pays tax around the 18% mark (here).
Kingfisher has threatened to move its headquarters overseas, citing the UK's tax regime, one of the most friendly to corporations in Europe (here). The Guardian's tax database suggests that they paid 20% tax on their profits (here).
Towergate is involved in 'tax efficiencies', running seminars which deal with "Tax efficient cash/profit extraction and remuneration strategies for senior business personnel and high earners - leading to significant reductions in taxation" (here).
TalkTalk campaigned against the 50p a month broadband levy, claiming that it would force 100,000 people to give up their broadband lines as the increase would not be affordable in these times. The company then increased line rentals by 55p a month (here).
Microsoft channels a large amount of it's international business through Ireland. In 2007, they paid €460k tax on profits of €1.6bn - 0.04% (here).
GlaxoSmithKline has transferred intellectual property to low-tax regimes such as Puetro Rico and Ireland, with companies in higher tax countries paying licensing fees (here and here). Paid $3.4bn tax settlement to the American tax authorities (here). Threatened to move investment from the UK over tax (here).
Alliance Boots was taken over by a private equity firm in 2007. In the prior year the company paid £131m tax on £455m profit. Following the take over, the firm's profits were offset against finance charges. The headquarters has moved from Nottingham to the tax haven of Zug in Switzerland (here).
Diageo have moved a number of their brands from the UK to the more tax efficient Netherlands. The manufacturing facilities remain in the UK, but the ownership and profit now appear to reside in the Netherlands (here).
This is from a quick couple of Google and news site searches per company, with next to nothing in the way of investigation. I would suggest the Guardian's Tax Gap series, and the Tax Research blog as reading material.
As well as these details on the companies, it would appear that a number of these concerned businessmen may be non-domiciles rather than full UK taxpayers. While the activities of the companies may not be illegal, I would suggest that it is more than slightly hypocritical to demand the swift reduction of the UK's deficit while trying to pay the bare minimum in the way of tax. Following the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law.