May 22 - Growing concern in European capitals about aggressive tax avoidance by high-profile corporations such as Amazon, Google and Apple steals the agenda of a European Union summit in Brussels. Ciara Sutton reports.
ATTN CLIENTS PLS USE THIS VERSION NOT FIRST VERSION - CORRECTED SCRIPT - APOLOGIES They were supposed to discuss energy - instead European leaders put their energy into tax avoidance - more importantly how to combat it. It's estimated the EU loses around a trillion euros a year through tax avasion. Investigations in Britain, France and the US have revealed how companies like Google, Amazon and now Apple have been paying very little tax by carefully structuring their European operations. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL SAYING: "It's important that if we want to encourage people to fairly pay their taxes, that we act resolutely against tax fraud and evasion." (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON SAYING: "International collaboration, sharing of tax information. I am making that the headlines of my G8 summit in a month's time and it is important that we make sure that the European Union as well, that we act together to make sure that we do everything on this agenda." A U.S. investigation has showed that Apple paid just 2 percent tax on $74 billion in overseas income, largely by exploiting a loophole in Ireland's tax code. Google and Facebook have their European headquarters in Ireland to take advantage of its low corporate tax rate. Google's Executive chairman Eric Schmidt insists the company's doing nothing wrong. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIC SCHMIDT, CHAIRMAN, GOOGLE, SAYING: "Google feels very, very strongly that tax information, tax policies, should be done completely transparently. With respect to the current issues, I don't think companies should decide what tax policies should be, I think governments should. And all of us are operating in a very, very long standing tax regime, which is set up for various reasons that don't necesarily make sense to me or anybody else, but they are the way the global tax regime works." Ireland's Prime Minister was also quick to defend his country's role in the row. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IRISH PRIME MINISTER ENDA KENNY, SAYING: "Ireland's corporate tax rate is statute-based, it's very clear and very transparent and we do not do special deals with any individual companies in regard to that tax rate." But the latest US findings suggest Apple paid little or no tax on some areas of it business by funnelling profits through Irish subsidiaries. With many European countries desperate to cut massive deficits that's a situtation many leaders are keen to tackle.