Shop a Scrounger

What do Topshop (Sir Philip Green Arcadia Group), Vodafone, SABMiller (brewers of Grolsch), Boots, Barclays and now Cadbury’s, all have in common? They all dodge their taxes.

We all pay our taxes. We may not like it, but it is part of our civic duty, part of our obligation to the Big Society. But not it seems if we are big enough. If we are big enough or rich enough, we get away with paying little or no tax.

The poorer you are, the more likely you are to be demonised, to be called a scrounger. A whole army of informers and investigators has been enlisted to target these people, shop a scrounger we are told in government media campaigns.

But who are these scroungers? The single Mum who puts in a few hours down the pub to make ends meet, the extra bit of cash-in-hand that makes the difference between her kids having new clothes or not.

A pensioner unable to pay his or her Council Tax is thrown into prison. A small business struggling to meet the tax demand will be put out of business. But if you are rich enough or big enough you pay little or no tax.

It was the greedy bankers who got the economy into a mess. And who bailed them out? The long-suffering taxpayers. And who makes up the shortfall? The poor and disadvantaged by having their welfare cut.

The tax that is not being paid has been calculated to be twice that of the budget deficit. That is if those who did not pay their taxes were forced to do so, not only would there be no need for cuts in public spending, there would be money to spend on railways, on insulating homes, on developing new greener technologies, on providing a national fast broadband infrastructure, on paying students to go to university, for more nurses and teachers, for repair of crumbling schools, for sports facilities for all.

Wealthy people and corporations avoiding and evading tax cost the UK £120 billion per year. That’s enough to cancel out the spending cuts twice over between now and 2014. By contrast, estimated cost of people over-claiming benefits costs the government £1 billion per year – roughly equal to the amount of tax dodged by Barclays Bank alone.

Who are the real scroungers?

Vodafone were let off a £6 billion tax bill. Their financial director just happens to be advisor to the Chancellor on corporate tax.

SABMiller pay less tax in Ghana than a local stall at the market. The tax they do not pay means kids do not go to school.

Barclays have complex tax avoidance schemes in place that make money out of nothing. Money that you and I pay for for with lost tax revenue.

Boots head office is a PO Box in Switzerland. Boots is owned by a hedge fund.

Cadbury’s, now American owned, a buyout financed by taxpayer-owned RBS, looks set to follow the example of Boots.

Sir Philip Green (owner of Arcadia, owner of Topshop) avoided £300 million on his £1.2 billion dividend payout by paying it through his wife who is resident in Monaco. Green is government adviser on cutting waste, ie code for public spending cuts.

Today Topshop stores across the country were shut down in protest. In London, Topshop security thugs attacked protesters in full view of police witnesses. Will the police be bringing charges for these assaults?

And the media? To their credit, the Mail Online had excellent coverage, but from the BBC during the day a deathly silence. No mention on the BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news, but did manage to mention that a bicycle thief had been apprehended through the trail he left in the snow. What then of their flagship PM news slot at 5pm? Er nothing. Out of a half hour prime early evening news, almost 15 minutes on Spanish air traffic controllers strikes (including sob story of stranded Brits) and tut tut Fifa not awarding World Cup football to England, several minutes on Oprah Winfrey taking her show to Sydney in Australia, several minutes on Asil Nadir allegedly breaching his bail conditions, a few second mention of climate protesters on the streets of London (blink and you would have missed it) but absolutely zilch on concerned citizens shutting down Topshop stores and the scandal of tax avoidance by the likes of Sir Philip Green and the implications it has for all of us in loss of public services. But there was coverage on the BBC Radio 4 6pm news. Channel 4 News once again put BBC to shame.


Tax Justice Network

Tax Research UK Blog

False Economy

Also see

Topshop day of action against tax dodger Sir Philip Green

Why cuts are the wrong cure

How SAB Miller escapes tax in developing countries

Grolsch tax avoidance

Mayhem in Oxford St as protesters target stores including Topshop’s flagship branch over firms avoiding tax bills

Tax protests: at last people have a way to express their anger

Cadbury’s secret Swiss move will cost UK exchequer millions in tax

Topshop’s flagship London store hit by tax protest

The day the teenagers turned on Topshop

Haringey Vodafone unpaid tax protest

Grateful Vodafone executives say a big thank you to Chancellor George Osborne

Nationwide shut down of Vodafone stores

Vodafone £6 billion unpaid tax bill

Cadbury goes Swiss to avoid British tax: Move by U.S. bosses will cost Treasury £60 million a year

UK Uncut targets Topshop and Vodafone over tax arrangements

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3 Responses to “Shop a Scrounger”

  1. Susan Says:

    Hi Keith,
    YES…I AGREE and am totally ‘up to date’,
    AWARE of ALL you mention, talk about….
    Would cost me 100 mails at least to convey what I feel,
    think, have experienced and still do about/in today’s DERANGED,
    in-humane REALITY….which I have, personally ‘suffered’ from and is the
    reason I HAD to GIVE-up all and ‘flee’ from my own country…, i.e.
    Holland (‘known’ for its ….pfff….!)
    Lived for 3 years in small camper as a nomad in Spain and Portugal…
    ADIEU to all….and AUREVOIR to friends and family….
    Love Sue

  2. Bhima Says:

    Hi Keith,

    There is a distinct difference between Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance.. in the simplest possible way, the former is illegal and the latter is legal.

    Avoiding tax is fairly straightforward if you know how to do it, and you don’t have to be super wealthy to do it…

    Big businesses, such as those found to be practicing Tax Avoidance, do so for business efficiencies.. it assists in maximization of profits. It provides extra capital for further investment towards the ever illusive goal of sustainable growth ad infinitum (an impossibility in a finite world). Let me know when UK Uncut will start targetting Tesco and other food retailers for these practices? Can they really mobilize the country behind them to nationally boycott these companies until they change their practices?

    One final thought.. if we stop and consider the nature of money in today’s mad world.. our money is fiat money.. it exists because our governments say it does.. does that not imply that it is arbitrary and its value is arbitrary? Maybe it would be a good idea to move to a cave in the Himalayas until the shit has cleared the fan.


    • keithpp Says:

      I am well aware of the difference, one is legal the other is illegal. If Sir Philip Green and other corporate tax dodgers wish to trade in our country then they have to pay our taxes. Otherwise we close them down.

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