The UK and German governments have launched a concerted attempt to crack down on tax avoidance by large multi-nationals.

Last night they issued a joint statement backing moves to fill in gaps in international tax systems.

The move came on the eve of tense discussions between Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the EU budget.

But their finance ministers joined together to warn that tax standards have had difficulty "keeping up with changes in global business practices".

They added: "As a result, some multinational businesses are able to shift the taxation of their profits away from the jurisdictions where they are being generated, thus minimising their tax payments compared to smaller, less international companies."

Asked last month in the House of Commons about allegations that Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay and Starbucks had between them avoided nearly £900 million of tax, Mr Cameron said he was "not happy" with the current situation.

Earlier Lin Homer, the boss of HM Revenue and Customs, had told MPs that multinational companies were not getting off easy from the taxman.

Members of the Commons Public Accounts Committee accused HM Revenue of failing to target large companies as aggressively as it does individuals.