Starbucks: How Evil Are They Really?

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If you haven’t heard about Starbucks’ tax problem, here is a very brief synopsis.  A Reuters story broke last week which outed the popular coffee chain for having paid only £8.6 million on sales of  £3 billion in Britain since 1998.  And then people were outraged when Starbucks offered to come clean by paying £20 million over the next two years, as if they are in a position to simply offer whatever they feel is a fair amount.

#1 – How dare Starbucks avoid paying taxes at this time of extreme belt-tightening all across Europe! If multinational corporations would just pay their share in taxes, then the UK and other European countries wouldn’t be in such bad shape.

#2 – How dare Starbucks think they can just throw out a figure they determine is fair when regular tax payers must pay everything they owe plus penalties & interest on top of the original tax debt!

But let’s put this in perspective.  The media fails to emphasize the fact that Starbucks isn’t doing so hot in the UK; they haven’t been making a profit.  Rents and royalties have been expensive.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Starbucks is not being accused of doing anything illegal; they are being accused of tax avoidance (i.e., paying as little in taxes as legally required).