Taking on the tax dodgers


Tax Dodger Action December 2011
Public sector workers watch our pension-grabbing Highwayman

This weekend I took part in a Tax Dodger Fashion Show with Redhill Coalition Against Cuts.

As part of a national day of action, we visited Redhill’s Topshop and Boots branches to highlight the fact that these hugely profitable companies are not paying their share of tax.

Why these two?

Topshop is part of the Arcadia group, owned by Sir Philip Green. Sir Philip has managed to avoid paying £285 million in tax, by registering his companies in the name of his wife, who lives in Monaco.

And after 150 years in the UK, Boots moved its HQ to Switzerland in 2008. Before the move, the Boots group generally paid about a third of its profits in UK tax: £120-£150 million each year. Last year though, on worldwide profits of £475 million, Boots paid just £14 million in tax – or 3% of profits.

Local Councils like ours are bearing the brunt of the Government’s programme of cuts. Last week it was announced that the government grant to local authorities will fall by 7.7% in 2012/13, on top of this year’s 9.9% cut. This is having a huge impact on Councils’ ability to deliver services that residents depend on and deserve. And none of the cuts would be necessary if hugely rich individuals and corporations all paid their taxes as the rest of us do. Britain loses up to £120 billion a year through tax dodging and uncollected tax.

Of course the managers and staff at the local branches are not responsible for these tax crimes. Our action was not targeted at them, we were aiming to raise awareness of the related issues of tax dodging and cuts.

It was great fun, our slightly chaotic but very energetic street theatre seemed to entertain shoppers and passers-by, with many telling us how much they support us and several spontaneously deciding to boycott Boots this Christmas.

Over the past year, actions like ours across the country have put the issue of tax avoidance onto the political agenda, with the head of HMRC forced to “retire” because of the dodgy deals he’s struck. UK Uncut is currently raising money to fight a tax avoidance court case involving Goldman Sachs.

Locally, Cllr Essex and I are doing our best to ensure that vital services are not cut. Meanwhile, direct action and street theatre are very good ways of showing that there are alternatives to spending cuts.

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