Drinks giant Diageo has defended its record on tax payments in the UK, following allegations that it has sought to shift profit to lower tax countries.

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper, published today, claimed that Diageo has set up a firm in the Netherlands for its Johnny Walker brand, in order to avoid paying tax in the UK.

While not illegal, the claim raises questions about Diageo's commitment to paying tax in the country where its headquarters is located.

A Diageo spokesperson defended the firm's record, however: "More than half of our shares, more than two thirds of our people, and more than 90% of our profits come from sales outside the United Kingdom. Yet we continue to make a significant contribution to the UK economy, with over 5,000 employees at more than 50 sites."

The spokesperson added: "As well as the economic benefit associated with these operations - including marketing spend and infrastructure investment, plus the indirect jobs and commerce we generate - Diageo exports earn more than GBP3bn in revenues for the Exchequer."

Also in the Guardian article today (2 Febuary) was a claim that Diageo held talks with HM Revenue & Customs in the UK in order for the Treasury to recoup some of the 'lost' tax.

Diageo has refused to comment specifically on the meetings, but said that it has a "continuing and confidential dialogue with HMRC".