UKuncut target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day


by Sunny Hundal    
9:20 am - November 30th 2010

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Shops owned by Sir Philip Green, the retail billionaire and ‘efficiency adviser’ to the government, will become the target of the ‘Day of Action’ against Tax Avoidance on Saturday 4th December.

Organisers behind UKuncut told the Guardian today that shops including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge would be targets, alongside the traditional enemy Vodafone.

The Guardian points out:

The businessman banked the biggest pay cheque in corporate history in 2005 when his Arcadia fashion business, which owns Topshop, paid a £1.2bn dividend. The record-breaking payment went to his wife, Tina, who lives in Monaco and is the direct owner of Arcadia. Because of this arrangement no UK income tax was due on the gain.

Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK, estimated Green saved £285m by paying the dividend to his wife.

UKuncut say they have set up the ‘Big Society Revenue Service’ (BSRC) to tackle Tax Avoidance in the UK.

Hundreds of activists across the country are expected to mobilise this Saturday for the action.

More details will be announced in the run-up to the big day, on here as well as the UKuncut website and Twitter account.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday, students from the UCL occupation also staged a protest at Topshop in Oxford Street, London. Here is a video report from that event.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


So… you want to return to calculating income by household? After all, wives are just chattels without an independent existence yes?

Or is it that you want people who weren’t born in the UK, and don’t live in the UK to pay tax in the UK?

2. Chaise Guevara

Tim, I think it’s more the idea that money earned from business carried out in Britain should be taxed in Britain. The problem is that you can get a $1.2bn dividend tax-free.

Tim J

There’s no denying Green did what he did to reduce his tax bill. Our tax laws are designed to get some revenue from the owners of companies that pay themselves in dividends. Is it beyond our abilities to close this loophole somehow?

Will UKuncut attempt to prevent people from shopping at Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Vodafone?

as I’ve written elsewhere, if people were using similarly legal wheezes to claim housing and unemployment benefits, the right-wing would have no hesitation condemning it.

Tim, I think it’s more the idea that money earned from business carried out in Britain should be taxed in Britain. The problem is that you can get a $1.2bn dividend tax-free.

Mrs Green owns the company. Dividends therefore get paid to her as sole shareholder. Shareholders pay income tax on dividends in their country of residence – that’s the law, and it’s really not practically possible to change it. Is HMRC supposed to go after dividend payments to (for example) BP shareholders in 100 or more different countries?

Alternatively, would it be right that UK shareholders shouldn’t pay UK tax on dividends from foreign companies?

It’s another example of ‘this doesn’t feel right’. And you’re right, it doesn’t feel right. But, again, you can’t base tax law (or any law really) on what feels right. Mrs Green (or whatever her name is) lives in Monaco – really lives there. If she moved to the UK (for our wonderful weather perhaps) she’d be liable for tax here. But there really is no principle of law that should allow the UK to charge income tax to non-British, non-British-resident, non-British-domiciled individuals. Even the Yanks don’t do that.

I’ve written elsewhere, if people were using similarly legal wheezes to claim housing and unemployment benefits, the right-wing would have no hesitation condemning it.

The way this is a wheeze is that the company is owned by Green’s wife. How do you propose to stop that? Re-introduce household-calculated income tax? Hey, I like the Victorians too. Better re-introduce the principle that the husband is responsible for his wife’s criminal actions while we’re at it – you know, if we’re going to make it impossible for her to own her own property.

Tim J,

yes I see the difficulty. I presume he gave the company to his wife to reduce his tax liability and she didn’t actually fund or manage his acquisition of it?

You’re right trying to change laws so dividends are taxed in country of origin, rather than ownership, would be a nightmare, would hurt the UK plenty (UK citizens own lots of shares in lots of foreign firms) and would be get-aroundable in other ways anyway.

maybe it is beyond our abilities to do anything about this.

“How do you propose to stop that? Re-introduce household-calculated income tax?”

IDS is actually proposing that universal credit gets calculated on a household basis. Currently many benefits also take into account the income of partners – when my fiancee moved in with me, she lost £100 a month tax credits because of my income.

Phillip Green basically gave the ownership to his wife as a tax avoidance measure, it is absurd to claim he doesn’t benefit from this and his wife keeps it all. This is the usual one rule for the rich, another for the poor. But you’d expect it from a cabinet containing 18 millionnaires, many of whom didn’t even earn their millions.

8 – I’m no sort of expert in Green family domesticity, but she’s apparently been pretty central to his business dealings since they married 20 years ago.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=338128&in_page_id=2

What the protests are doing is a big collective foot-stamp and a shout of ‘it’s not fair’. That’s right. It isn’t fair. How do you propose we stop it? The best protests have a ‘what do we want?’ chant – what is it precisely that they want here?

11. Luis Enrique

it’s the scale isn’t it … normally a business the size of Arcadia would be owned by thousands of small shareholders (mostly via pensions, tracker funds etc.) and if a few of them were overseas citizens and didn’t pay tax on their dividends that’s obviously just the mirror of UK citizens owning shares of overseas firms themselves. The Greens are just using exactly the same laws, just to an unusual degree. Hard to know how to fix that.

does the UK get tax from Arcadia via corporation tax on its profits? (dividends being paid out of post-tax earnings)

12. Luis Enrique

er yes she’s been pretty central helping him avoid tax for the past 20 years.

does the UK get tax from Arcadia via corporation tax on its profits? (dividends being paid out of post-tax earnings)

£3-400 million in the last five years apparently.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23866895-sir-philip-green-my-wife-is-not-an-exile-and-8201ive-paid-pound-400m-tax-in-five-years.do

“What the protests are doing is a big collective foot-stamp and a shout of ‘it’s not fair’.”

Ok Tim, bear in mind if you go on a protest you can’t write an essay containing detailed policy proposals on a placard. Within the people protesting I’d guess you’d have a range of knowledge from the people who feel its not fair (and want something done about it), to those with detailed knowledge of tax law and consistent proposals. You’d get that range of knowledge in any movement.

This isn’t about demanding impossible things, it is about demanding political will – which a party run by millionnaires doesn’t have.

Philip Green turned Arcadia around, creating a much improved business that employs people in the UK. In doing so he (GASP) made a lot of money. None of that money belongs to the state. Now of course there is tax to pay but in this instance, Green transferred the assets to his wife to avoid incurring a tax bill.

To compare a wealth-creator like Green with parasites who live off benefits is laughable and shows the economic ignorance of leftists.

What are the protestors proposing – that the government should just grab money off people who have lots of it? Or that the law should be changed – in which case why not go through Parliament in the democratic process? Or is this the usual bunch of whining teenage leftists throwing their toys out the pram “cos it isn’t FAIR”?

This isn’t about demanding impossible things, it is about demanding political will

Will to do what – snatch money from people you don’t like? Are aiming for Zimbabwean-style seizures?

which a party run by millionnaires doesn’t have

Yeah I heard the Milibands grew up in the ghetto, also none of the top shadow cabinet MPs went to private school did they?

17. Luis Enrique

bruno

don’t be an arse, in this country wealth creation is taxable (capital gains) as are earnings on capital. Green has found a way of dodging that.

thing is, even if we did find ourselves with a government that has the “political will” to go after tax evading/avoiding/minimizing schemes beloved by the rich, it’s not obvious what they could do in this case.

This isn’t about demanding impossible things, it is about demanding political will – which a party run by millionnaires doesn’t have.

Fine, but political will to do what? Presumably change the law so that, um, spouses are deemed liable for each others’ income (but only if they’re rich, I assume you don’t want to have transferrable allowances – which is kind of required if you want transferrable liabilities).

It’s just a big inchoate shout of anger. Which is fine, but really kinda pointless.

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 Luis

“You’re right trying to change laws so dividends are taxed in country of origin, rather than ownership, would be a nightmare, would hurt the UK plenty (UK citizens own lots of shares in lots of foreign firms) and would be get-aroundable in other ways anyway. ”

I realise that a move like this wouldn’t be without consequences, but would there be any scope for just taxing money when it leaves the UK/EU once a certain annual threshold has been passed?

Bruno, there are so many straw men in your post that you should probably start a business making scarecrows for farmers.

Tim, I’d say your description as “a big inchoate shout of anger.” was pretty accurate a description for 95% of the anti-immigration stuff on conservative blogs, but I realise that is diverting the subject.

Yes it really is a case of political will, after 9-11 the US went after secret offshore tax havens in an effort to close down the finance available to terrorist groups. When there is will, things happen. More specifically in relation to policy proposals, there are a number of reports I’ve found here: http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/reading/ , and also at the oecd http://www.oecd.org/topic/0,3373,en_2649_37427_1_1_1_1_37427,00.html, and more generally at the IMF, World Bank, EU etc.

A large part of dealing with Phillip Green is the more general issue of tax avoidance and evasion, rather than coming up with a specific “Get Green’s wife” policy. At the very least Tax avoiders should not be paid public money to chair inquiries etc.

Tim, I’d say your description as “a big inchoate shout of anger.” was pretty accurate a description for 95% of the anti-immigration stuff on conservative blogs, but I realise that is diverting the subject.

Absolutely right. And that’s one reason why mass demonstrations against immigration are so utterly pointless.

“mass demonstrations against immigration are so utterly pointless.”

Unfortuantely not (although technically speaking there hasn’t been a mass demonstration against immigration). The incoherant anger of the anti-immigrant lobby translated into some of the worst authoritian pieces of legislation and policy.

If I remember correctly the GMG is also into tax avoidance so why aren’t you boycotting the Guardian?

22 – and the actual result? In 1997, immigration at roughly 300k. In 2009, immigration at roughly 600k. Doesn’t look like a great result for the angry opponents of immigration does it?

Tim, much of that increase was the result of EU enlargement, where legislation wasn’t possible. Other results of that anger at immigration included children being imprisoned having committed no crime, thousands of migrant workers made homeless and destitute due to NRPF legislation, asylum seekers deported to torture and oppressive regimes, british people being denied the right to marry foreigners (even Devils Kitchen wised up to immigration when this affected his own relationship).

Tim, much of that increase was the result of EU enlargement, where legislation wasn’t possible.

Hey, I’m on your side here (probably). I’m married to an immigrant, albeit one who’s lived here for 20+ years. But there are people shouting noisily for an end to immigration – probably more than are calling for an end to tax avoidance – and shouting didn’t help.

Incidentally, the line above is pretty much what I’ve been saying about Vodafone’s tax position, and it didn’t seem to win many converts here.

Tim, I’m demonstrating that incoherant anger does have an effect on actual legislation – even if in the case of immigration laws its effects were things I disagreed with.

27 – It’s not a very cheerful thoguht though is it? Public anger will make politicians do things that, although they make no difference to the cause of the anger, are nasty and authoritarian in an attempt to assuage the mob.

Perhaps it’s a good thing Tina Green is in Monaco…

Well there are a couple of differences, (1) the tabloids haven’t given us 15 years of hysterical headlines about tax avoidance, (2) arguing that people pay their share of tax isn’t the same as arguing children should be locked up, or tax avoiders should face the death penalty. The actual policy proposals coming from organisations like tax justice are more to do with clamping down on offshore havens, closing loopholes etc. And whilst I accept not all protestors will have a detailed knowledge of tax law and accountancy, I’d say there is a good chance that the vast majority will know what parliament is and what a piece of legislation is, which isn’t something I’d be confident saying about Daily Star readers.

Simple question. How come after 13 years of Labour there are still so many tax loopholes for the rich to jump through?

Tax reform is a big, sticky can of nasty metaphors, and no government will touch it. (And no, I can’t see what to do about the Greens either. Returning to a situation where women are not independent taxable beings does not meet any definition of progressive that I’m aware of.)

Unfortunately, there’s no obvious reason why this government should grasp the nettle any more than Labour did. Understanding of the issues is so poor that people seem generally assuagable with the idea of a “crackdown”. Protestors seem content to target scapegoats with moralistic demands rather than campaign for changes to the law. Labour are *still* fixating on the precise whereabouts of the upper rate band vis-a-vis their arses and being encouraged in this fallacy by the Fabians.

I’d march for tax reform. And I’d have said the opportunity to do any such thing was impossible, before the purple protests. “What do we want? STV!” is probably top of the list of things I never thought I’d chant.

Unfortunately if Phillip Green wants to be a wanker, with the morals of a paedophile, no-one is going to stop him but himself. Really would rather the Tory party as our representative government didn’t rubberstamp this moral vacuum however.

33. roy marshall

well done all,i’d given up on people understanding the real issues about the banks and the oligarchy enslaving us all but people like sheep believing what the politicans tell them,even though the politicans sold their souls to the banksters long ago,your all a breath of fresh air,i intend to be their on saturday 4th, until then solidarity all!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  2. David Carter

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  3. Ellie Mae

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  4. Stephen Whitehead

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R <-Good

  5. GuyAitchison

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  6. Political Dynamite

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  7. Andy S

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  8. Heskin Radiophonic

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  9. Black Bloc

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  10. Therese

    Very good video. RT @libcon UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  11. Chris Patmore

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  12. Natacha Kennedy

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  13. Emily Armistead

    Great action by students yesterday at Topshop http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R. Why on earth is tax dodger Philip Green allowed to advise government?

  14. Alastair Smith

    Hilarious! "UKuncut say they have set up the ‘Big Society Revenue Service’ … to tackle Tax Avoidance in the UK" http://bit.ly/gxQlck #fb

  15. Mike Cushman

    RT @Steveistall: RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R <-Good

  16. London Places

    Map for Topshop: http://schmap.it/hdznQ4?a – RT @emily_arm Great action by students yesterday at Topshop http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R. Why on ear…

  17. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  18. Mark Townsend

    UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://t.co/CRp5cKj via @libcon <- A bit shouty, but makes the point well.

  19. NewLeftProject

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  20. The morning of the student protest « Raincoat Optimism

    [...] spree starts collecting last nights junk, not least the orange cuttings used by activists to flash mob a Topshop in Oxford Street yesterday. The snow falls down outside, on the day of the biggest student protest for many years; [...]

  21. NORMAN HERRINGTON

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  22. NORMAN HERRINGTON

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  23. Beautiful Monaco

    UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember … http://bit.ly/fiEI2B

  24. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember: Shops owned by Sir Philip Green, the retai… http://bit.ly/hKxMlP

  25. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  26. Teresa

    UKuncut target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/KRs4d0X via @libcon

  27. Daniel Pitt

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  28. Wendy Maddox

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  29. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    UKuncut target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/q4YzryE via @libcon

  30. Bon Holloway

    RT @libcon: UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember http://bit.ly/dJ6C0R

  31. The Topshop Protests of 2010 « negativentropy

    [...] UKuncut to target Topshop on Tax Avoidance day #4thDecember (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  32. FCAblog » The neanderthal social views of the ukuncut protestors

    [...] rap sheet for Topshop is fairly well rehearsed.  Topshop is the success story of Sir Philip Green.  In 2005, the Arcadia group, which [...]

  33. SABmiller: world’s second largest brewer is dodging millions in poorer countries | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] Vodafone, Boots, and Topshop already in the UKUncut firing line over tax avoidance, this week ActionAid has exposed how SABMiller, the owner of Grolsch and Peroni [...]

  34. Politics: Postmodernism in the Streets – the tactics of protest are changing « Small Nation

    [...] at short-notice to take part in autonomous, targeted actions. From the UCL occupation alone, a flash mob staged a teach-in of tax-avoiding high street stores like Topshop under the mantra that “if you [...]





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