The EU is attempting to tackle corporate tax avoidance in the Single Market despite an uphill battle against global giants such as Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade, all of which are under investigation for deliberately using a network of companies to channel profits into countries with more benign tax regimes.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in June hit out at companies refusing to meet with parliament's special tax committee, saying they must "have something to hide." According to the European People's Party deputy leader Burkhard Balz, these include: "Google, Fiat, Amazon, InBev, Ikea, HSBC, Coca-Cola and McDonald's."
Now, the European Parliament's special tax committee is considering stripping the companies of lobbying and access rights as a sanction for failing to attend its sessions. Parliament vice-president Sylvie Guillaume has written a letter to MEPs urging the tax committee to file a complaint against the firms for not respecting the transparency register's code-of-conduct rules.
Many of the companies named have people working at the European Parliament of a daily basis and have free passes for access to the buildings in the institution.
The European Parliament's co-rapporteur on the TAXE committee Michael Theurer said: "Some companies refused with a view to the ongoing state aid investigations, like Fiat and Amazon or InBev, which they have a right to do. Others argued that they could not secure a speaker for the date proposed, like Google, Ikea or HSBC — but they did not suggest alternative dates to come to the committee."
"I think it is highly outrageous that all these large multinational enterprises, which staff their Brussels lobby offices with highly qualified experts, cannot find someone qualified to answer the questions of elected representatives of European citizens."
InBev, Amazon and Fiat said they were all under investigation by the EU and could, therefore, not participate. Google said they could not find anyone to address the MEPs, according the EU Observer. McDonald's, Coca Cola and Barclays said they could not find appropriate staff at the time to represent them.