EPSU – Unhappier Meal: Tax Avoidance Still on the Menu at McDonald’s

One sees how easy tax dodging is in the EU. If you have problems in one nation, one simply moves to the next. There are almost 200 nations in the world, so there will never be a shortage of tax havens. Nor will there be an international solution in the near future. That means the EU will have to clamp down on McDonalds here. As the EU political elite sees furthering the interests of international corporations as its primary objective, there is little chance of this occurring.

Today we release a new report on McDonald’s tax practices, focusing on the company’s use of tax avoidance mechanisms in Europe and low-tax and secrecy jurisdictions around the world. It shows how in the midst of a tax probe and the day after the Brexit, McDonald’s changed its tax structure.

In February 2015, our coalition of European and American trade unions unveiled a report about McDonald’s deliberate avoidance of over €1 billion in corporate taxes in Europe (from 2009 to 2013).

Three years later, this update shows that McDonald’s has significantly changed its corporate structure after the European Commission started investigating its tax dealings with Luxembourg and is less transparent on tax and more reliant on well-known tax-havens.

The Unhappy Meal report outlined in detail the tax avoidance strategy adopted by McDonald’s and its tax impact both throughout Europe and in major markets like France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The new report ‘Unhappier Meal’ (attached) is co-authored by EPSU, EFFAT, and SEIU– the coalition of European and American trade unions, representing 15 million workers in different sectors of the economy across almost 40 countries.

Since the European Commission launched  its state aid probe,  McDonald’s has moved from Luxembourg  to Delaware in the USA using a myriad of intermediate companies in Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK while making use of companies in the Cayman Islands,  Bermuda and Guernsey.

The new corporate structure is so untransparent that the new tax base is currently unknown. It does not allow for public scrutiny of the companies’ accounts, including taxes owed and paid.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary says that “McDonald’s recent move shows why we need strong global public country-by-country reporting. The European Council must take up its responsibility and protect our communities from corporate tax dodging. We call on the Commission to continue and deepen its investigation of the company and on national tax authorities to conduct joint audits.” He adds “The European Union cannot let companies like McDonald’s act with total impunity; the EU’s credibility is at stake.”

Harald Wiedenhofer, EFFAT General Secretary, states: “This report adds insult to injury, after the successful McStrike actions in the UK, demanding a pay rise to £10 per hour, an end to zero-hour contracts and trade union rights and recognition, and several investigations at national and European level concerning workers’ rights. McDonald’s has to pay its fair share of taxes, and needs to guarantee decent working conditions, fair wages and proper information and consultation rights to all its workers, otherwise the credibility of Social Europe is jeopardised.

SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Sáenz said: “It’s clear that McDonald’s will do whatever it takes to hide its abusive tax practices from public scrutiny. McDonald’s tax avoidance is just one example of how the company inflates its profits at the expense of everyone else, including workers, consumers and taxpayers. We urge the European Commission to vigilantly investigate McDonald’s continued tax avoidance and hold the company accountable for the damage done by its misconduct.”

For more information contact Pablo Sanchez psanchez@epsu.org 0032 (0) 474 62 66 33

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