BUSINESS
07/19/2012 12:59 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2012

McDonald's, Coke, GE and Visa Turn Down London Olympics Tax Exemption

We never wanted any tax exemption anyway.

Amid public outcry, Visa and General Electric have joined McDonald's and Coca-Cola in announcing that they won't take a tax break on profits earned at the London Olympics this summer, the Guardian reported Thursday.

In a previous Reuters story, McDonald's and Coca-Cola took pains to emphasize that the recent protests over the exemptions had nothing to do with their decision.

A nonprofit group called 38 Degrees had gathered 165,000 signatures urging corporations to "Stop Olympic Tax Dodging."

McDonald's told Reuters its revenue from the Olympics will amount to just 0.1 percent of its annual sales in Great Britain anyway, so no biggie. Coke said it never intended to take a corporate or tax discount either.

GE said in the Guardian that because its projects are with British companies, the company would pay normal British taxes. Visa also said it was subject to U.K. taxation.

New tax relief-rules led the London Olympics to offer the exemption for the biggest sponsors, which paid nearly $1 billion for the tightly-enforced rights to serve as sponsors for both the Vancouver Winter Olympics and London Summer Olympics.

Giving global corporate giants a temporary tax haven didn't sit well with the Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group for finance transparency, according to ThinkProgress.org. The group estimated that the freebie would cost the U.K. “tens of millions of pounds” in lost revenue needed to solve the country's debt crisis.

Foreign athletes are also exempt from British income tax, Forbes reported.

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