Senior Liberal Democrats are drawing up plans for a new levy on Starbucks, Amazon and other global businesses that pay low levels of tax on their British operations.
Starbucks paid no UK corporation tax last year despite sales of nearly £400 million.
The coffee chain has legally minimised its tax liability using inter-group transfer since it came to the UK 14 years ago, but this year agreed to make a payment of £20 million to HM Revenue and Customs.
Critics may argue that the policy will make the UK less attractive to global firms. Starbucks, Amazon, the online retailer, and Google, the search engine, all stress that they comply with all UK tax laws and that they pay significant amounts of National Insurance and other taxes on their operations here.
Nevertheless, such a charge may capture the public mood. Starbucks has endured an embarrassing public boycott since details of how little Corporation Tax it pays in the UK was revealed last year.
Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, told The Sunday Telegraph that a minimum tax rate for big business was “an interesting idea that should be looked at”, but added that his priority remained ensuring that this year’s Budget included a Mansion Tax.
“Over the coming months there will be discussions with the Treasury about introducing a general tax avoidance rule that could apply to businesses,” Mr Cable added.
“However, I remain most interested in the Mansion Tax – there is a lot of value locked up in property and it would be a tax that would be hard to avoid.
"The Conservatives still oppose this plan, but I will certainly have another go at getting this into the Budget.”