Spring Statement: UK "prepared to act unilaterally" on tech giants tax changes

Catherine Neilan
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Facebook and other tech giants will be targeted by a new tax (Source: Getty)

The government has said it is "prepared to act unilaterally" in order to ensure digital giants are paying the taxes they owe.

Launched as part of Philip Hammond's Spring Statement today, the new document reiterates the government view that the principle that companies should be taxed based on profits where they create value is being "challenged by business models for which value creation is in part reliant on the engagement and participation of users".

The government argues the global tax system "has not kept pace with these changes and that action is needed".

One idea on the table is to tax the value created by users - such as their data, which is sold on to advertisers by social media platforms and others. This would be a new tax based on "where companies derive significant value... regardless of where they're based", a Treasury spokesman said.

He stressed that startups would be excluded, and that the tax would target "well-established businesses".

"We don't want to choke off the UK as a hub for innovation," he said. "We will proceed carefully and cautiously."

The government said it would consider interim measures such as revenue-based taxes, but ultimately was hopeful of working on a multilateral basis "and it intends to work closely with the EU and international partners on this issue".

There is also an OECD report on the matter due to be published soon, and the topic is expected to be debated at the G20 summit in Argentina. Last month the EU warned the likes of Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google "this is happening".

But Treasury spokespeople this afternoon said the government "understands public frustration at the perception that digital companies don't pay what they owe" and was keen act swiftly.

"The best way to do this is at an international level... but we are prepared to act unilaterally," a spokesman said.

"It is being led at an international level but we will be at the forefront," a spokeswoman added.

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