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G20 backs company tax crackdown

The leaders of the G20 have signed up to a new plan to make multinational companies pay more taxes, according to officials.

The leaders of the world's leading economies backed proposals to make it harder for multinationals to hide money in tax havens, and also to force companies to pay tax in the countries where they make profits

The head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Angel Gurria, said the leaders signed on to the plan at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Russia.

But it could take years to get the new tax treaties and laws into place, and advocacy groups said poor countries should also be included.

The new rules, unveiled by the OECD and debated by G20 finance ministers in July, strike an unprecedented deal to share information on individual taxpayers, despite earlier resistance by China.

"You've got to get the big guys to make a contribution," Mr Gurria said, otherwise, "what are the treasurers, the ministers of finance left with? Medium and small-scale enterprises, the middle class to tax? Well, that has a limit."

The OECD is designing the new global tax rules and has come under fire from cross-border corporations that say they are being unfairly targeted, but OECD officials say some companies are starting to recognise that their moves to register in low-tax jurisdictions such as Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands are causing public pain.

Low tax payments by major global companies - including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks - have sparked public anger in Europe recently as governments struggle with high debts, low growth and austerity measures.

Mr Gurria, speaking in an interview at the G20 summit, insisted that the tax plan is not anti-business.

"We don't want to discourage the companies from creating jobs. But we obviously don't want to encourage companies to take away the profits and squirrel them away and not share them with anybody else," he said.

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