Is this a benefit of Brexit? McDonald’s is moving its non-US tax base from Luxembourg to the UK.
It feels a touch surreal. The EU commission ordered Ireland to charge Apple 13 billion euros in back taxes, and the Irish government said it didn’t want to.
The EU is also getting heavy with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and the relationship between the small country and McDonald’s is especially under fire.
And so McDonald’s is shifting its holding company to the UK.
McDonald’s said that the holding company is responsible “for the majority of the royalties received from licensing the company's global intellectual property rights outside the US".
And yet the company denies it has anything to do with saving tax.
“This unified structure will be administratively simpler and will reduce expenses and enhance flexibility." Unfortunately for McDonald’s, the people who read this stuff were not born on December 7th 2016 – or to put it another way, at the moment when the company made this announcement they were ‘not born yesterday.’
We know that the move has a lot to do with taxation, and the EU making it harder for its members to incentivise companies to operate from their country to save tax, and Luxembourg itself is under close scrutiny.
And beyond the EU, there are global efforts afoot. First there is the Base Erosion and Profiting Shifting clampdown – an attempt to limit the way companies can juggle with their profits, channelling them into divisions based in low tax countries. Secondly, there are moves to force country by country reporting, forcing companies to list all profits and taxes paid in each country where they have a presence.
But hey, the UK won’t be in the EU for much longer, and to use an EU word: ‘voila’, does it not make sense to move to a non-EU country?
And while the company behind the chain of fast food restaurants says that it has chosen the UK because of the number of staff working for the firm who are already there, just recall, as Vincent Vega, the character played by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction said: “A quarter pounder with cheese is called a Royale with Cheese and a Big Mac is called Le Big Mac.” So, we know they have McDonald’s in France.
The corporation tax rate in the UK is 20%, and expected to fall to 17%. Sure, it is even lower in Ireland, but then Ireland is in the EU, and Apple is still smarting over its tax issues.
This leads us to two conclusions.
A UK, free of the shackles of EU rules, may be able undercut the EU in taxation and draw in foreign companies, but the EU is not so likely to take this lying down, and it certainly won’t help post Article 50 negotiations.
But it is not just the EU that is trying to stymie global corporation tax avoidance, this is a global thing.