MPs and Lords have called for a crackdown on tax avoidance after the Guardian newspaper alleged that Tesco was using an elaborate corporate structure to avoid paying tax.

The newspaper said the retailer was using offshore havens to avoid paying tax of up to£1 billion on profits from the sale of its UK properties.

Tesco executive director of corporate affairs Lucy Neville-Rolfe said: “We have an open relationship with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and meet with them regularly to discuss our tax affairs, including our property and international transactions.

“Full details have been provided to HMRC in the normal way. While every company seeks to operate as tax efficiently as possible – to do so is our duty to customers and shareholders alike – Tesco pays a great deal of tax. It is one of the UK’s largest tax payers.”

In a six-month investigation, the Guardian yesterday claimed it has uncovered a string of Cayman Island companies, each named after a different colour from aqua to violet. These, it is alleged, are being used by Tesco as it proceeds with its announced programme to sell and lease back£6 billion worth of its UK stores.