Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words


1:55 pm - December 20th 2011

by Sunny Hundal    


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A year ago I braved the November and December colds to be part of a protest outside London’s flagship Vodafone store. I was also roughly bundled out of Topshop in Oxford Circus, chanted ‘Philip Green pay your tax’ at the BHS store on the same street, and was there when Boots shut down their store in the face of protests.

UKuncut were universally derided on the right and scoffed at by some within the Labour party for their tactics and targets. “Labour should not be the party of protest,” said movement-builder Dan Hodges, while displaying selective amnesia about the history of the Labour party.

But no one had ever tried to raise public awareness of corporate tax avoidance in this way before, and certainly no one had got the Daily Mail on side on it either. Only UKuncut managed that.

There’s no doubt that today’s report, on the front page of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph (even in the Sun!), pointing out that corporations had avoided at least £25 billion in tax, is vindication for UKuncut.

While senior Labour MPs were sympathetic, they didn’t say much on the issue in public. Only Chuka Umunna (now in the shadow cabinet) focused attention on Barclays’ own legal loopholes to avoid tax. This has now finally changed.

I also think UKuncut’s success makes three points:

» It’s possible to raise awareness of almost any issue however boring it may seem, with a bit of innovative thinking.

» You need a variety of methods and stunts to get your point across: they demonstrated in front of shops; filmed themselves paying a visit to Dave Hartnett of the HMRC; set up a legal fund to sue the HMRC.

» Direct action can work, especially in tandem with other institutions and actions. Activists may not like to admit it, but what finished off the HMRC’s credibility on the issue was Margaret Hodge MP, who outspokenly accused Hartnett of “lying”. Labour MPs may not like it but action by outside groups can help lay the ground for them to move further left too.

For perhaps the first time, UKuncut have also managed to get the Taxpayers Alliance and the unions on the same side.

To be sure, the journey hasn’t been without controversy. The Fortnum & Mason’s action backfired (thanks to lies by the Met police) and they’ve continuously been attacked from right-wingers and anarchist groups.

But their detractors will no doubt have to eat their own words. Going into Christmas, UKuncut have every right to be proud of what they’ve achieved over the last year by coming up with new ideas and tactics to relentlessly focus on one key issue.

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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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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Fight the cuts ,The Left

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Reader comments


Innovative tactics executed to perfection. The complaisant one percent will be sleeping less easily now.

I think you are right about the credit they deserve for drawing attention to tax issues, but I do wish they’d show more interest in detail / factual accuracy. Vodafone for example.

same goes for you. It is just wrong to say at least £25bn has been avoided – that’s the sum in dispute, when the disputes are resolved the amounts owing are going to be less that £25bn unless HMRC wins every dispute without revising the sums claimed.

3. Bit inconvenient

“‘Labour should not be the party of protest,’ said that movement-builder Dan Hodges, while having selective amnesia about the Labour party’s entire history.”

Remind me. How many times has Labour officially supported a strike?

I’m with Luis on this one; on the one hand it is an achievement and really has raised the profile of the issues around taxation, and whether the current system is fair (which I assume most people in tune with the ideals of this site would say it isn’t), and beginning the process whereby it can be changed.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer however…..

‘Labour should not be the party of protest’

Its worth thinking about what this means. It doesn’t mean that Labour should never object to things. A Blairite Labour party would continue to object to (which is not substantively different to protesting about) benefit cheats and illegal immigrants.

Here, “protest” refers specifically to objecting to things that powerful people do. A Blairite Labour party wouldn’t object to, or protest about, the wealthy not contributing their fair share to society.That would be to blaspheme against the Lord, our Blair.

So ‘Labour should not be the party of protest’, when translated into English, means, ‘New Labour should be the party of kiss-up, kick-down cowardice’.

While senior Labour MPs were sympathetic, they didn’t say much on the issue in public.

Probably because they’d then been out of power for a matter of months and the public might have wondered why they’d done fuck all about tax avoidance during the previous 13 years.

That hodges character really is a vile scumbag isnt he. Where did these traitors all come from?

There’s certainly an interesting debate to be had over the right future strategies and the right blend of tactics within those strategies, given the point which had been reached with the PAC report.

However, post hoc rationalisation of the “direct action” as a key part of the campaign, should be avoided. It was the lawful pursuit of the issue through the courts and investigative journalism that brought the issue to Parliament.

Maybe focusing time and resources on that – and away from the violence – would get even quicker results next time.

Furthermore, Luis Enrique is right to point out that the amount in question has been confirmed as “in dispute”, which no one ever really denied. It has just been a question of whether it had been avoided and the legality thereof.

There may well tun out to be vast sums legally owed. Even if there aren’t, there may well be good moral arguments that it is owed anyway. So be it. There certainly seem to be good arguments (alluded to above) that a simplified overall tax code would avoid all this in the future.

These are arguments yet to be properly had, let alone won by any side.

My criticism of UKUncut has been that they have made the call for a crack down on tax evasion harder by attacking the wrong targets. As Luis correctly says the abject ignorance of UKUncut on tax matters has actually distracted from a more sensible campaign to close down tax havens or deal with offshore stamp duty avoidance.

For instance TopShop does pay full UK corporation tax. Philip Green pays full UK taxes. It is Philip Greens wife who avoids tax.

Barclays didn’t avoid tax thru “loopholes”. It paid little tax this year because of massive tax losses carried forward. That isnt a loophole it is a central tenet of taxation worldwide.

The only way UKUncut can claim victory is if the QC currently investigating whether Vodafone was “let off” billions in tax reports back in UKUncut’s favour.

Time for country-by-country accounts to be required in the EU?

@ 9

For instance TopShop does pay full UK corporation tax. Philip Green pays full UK taxes. It is Philip Green’s wife who avoids tax.

Since his wife is a South African who doesn’t live in Britain, I’m not sure that she’s ‘avoiding’ UK tax any more than, say, a Mexican who lives in Sweden does.

“I was also roughly bundled out of Topshop in Oxford Circus, chanted ‘Philip Green pay your tax’ at the BHS store on the same street,”

Could you just remind me which tax you think Philip Green isn’t paying?

He’s UK resident for tax so he pays the normal income and national insurance on his salary. Arcadia, the company he runs, pays normal corporation tax on its profits. None this last year as it made a loss (there’s a recession around, you know?) and £50 million odd on its £150 million profit the year before. Around 30%, the statutory rate.

Philip Green doesn’t own any shares in Arcadia so what happens to income tax on those isn’t Philip Green’s tax bill.

So, could you just remind me which taxes you think that Green himself is dodging or not paying?

“pointing out that corporations had avoided at least £25 billion in tax”

As others have said, that isn’t what the PAC has said at all. What they have said is that there are some 2,700 companies in dispute with HMRC over what their tax bill is and the total amount in dispute is up to £25 billion.

And, you know, we have a method of sorting out such disagreements. When the government, or an arm of it, says that the law is this, then you, I, an association of people, could be a union, mutual, company, NGO (aren’t there a couple of NGOs trying to sue the government for not obeying the law on publishing a gender equality study of the tax and benefit changes?) who disagree with that being what the law says can go to court and get the judges to tell us both what the law actually is.

And do you know what? Sometimes HMRC is wrong about what the law is. As it was in the Cadbury case, as it was twice with Vodafone, M&S showed they were wrong on VAT law once as well.

That £25 billion is not tax being dodged. It’s tax in dispute as to whether it is owed or not.

“But their detractors will no doubt have to eat their own words.”

Personally, I’m looking forward to the retired judge doing, for the NAO, the report that the PAC has called for. Vodafone is one of the cases he’ll be looking at.

If I’m wrong, if £ 6 billion was owed and Harnett let them off, sure I’ll eat my words.

But do make sure that you’re ready to do the same if you’re wrong.

Well said Sunny, and well done for giving it publicity. We had 30 years of trickle down bullshit, and it does not work. The rich are even more greedy and selfish than they were before.

Now it is up to pip squeak our chancellor to make sure he pushes laws to stop these freeloaders. If he does not then the rhetoric of All in this together will be as bankrupt as a tory troll.

@11 Philip Green’s wife was a resident UK taxpayer until she moved to Monaco. Seeing as she had lived in the UK for decades, raised a family in the UK and is married to a man who still lives and works in the UK I think it is reasonable to assume she moved to Monaco solely to avoid UK income tax.

So why does UKUncut attack Topshop rather than campaign for a US style tax system whereby UK passport holders need to pay full UK tax wherever they live in the world (offset by whatever tax that person pays in that country).

“Philip Green’s wife was a resident UK taxpayer until she moved to Monaco. ”

She was. But I don’t actually know whether she’s a UK passport holder. I know she’s South African. So even this might not work:

“UK passport holders need to pay full UK tax”

I don’t know if she has two passports or just the one.

@9

I have some sympathy for the view that perhaps the wrong targets were chosen; there were plenty of debates earlier in the year (including some in here) about corporate taxation. The $64,000 question (or probably more likely the $6.4 billion question?) is how as a society you ensure that the tax “take” is seen as equitable, and is seen to be wisely spent. Many people would argue that currently the answer to both questions is “no”, whether they are of the left or right.

Many on here (mostly the right wing & libertarian types) went off the deepend earlier in the year insisting that, in the end, corporate taxes were simply passed on to consumers via higher prices, and employees through reduced pay and conditions, and shareholders via lower dividends.

I suppose my issue is still that, in the meantime before we reach the sunny uplands such people have wet dreams about…. how do we ensure that the large amounts of revenue being lost to HMRC for various reasons (clever accounting, HMRC fecklesness, companies shopping around for lower tax rates in Ireland and Switzerland) doesn’t simply mean that “ordinary” tax payers end off with the worst of all possible worlds. We pay higher taxes, but the companies don’t pass on their “savings” from such tax avoidance however legitimate it is, and simply spend it on bigger bonuses, marble fountains and feeding their fat cats.

I find it interesting how little credit Private Eye are getting in this though

They’ve been running stories on this, and Dave Hartnetts sweetheart deals for months, years even,

Yet when the story breaks with MPs everyone appears shocked.

My criticism of UKUncut has been that they have made the call for a crack down on tax evasion harder by attacking the wrong targets.

I absolutely love the fact that people keep repeating useless statement, from day one, despite all the victories.

Here’s a tip right-wingers – your criticism of UKuncut might have worked if it wasn’t so hilariously bad.

@ Sunny

But what is the actual victory of UKUncut ? Awareness of tax issues has certainly been raised but to what end ? As myself and others have pointed out the targets of UKUncut aren’t actually doing anything wrong. Vodafone almost certainly hasn’t been let off any tax.

A while ago on a CiF article by a UKUncut spokesman I wrote a fairly detailed account of how the rich avoid stamp duty on house purchases. He had never even heard of this scam. Tackle stuff like that or even Murphy’s stuff on tax havens. But occupying Fortnums or harassing TopShop staff on Saturdays just makes the whole issue of taxation evasion/avoidance seem like a lefty student attack just on the rich for being rich.

@18 Sunny

Declaring victory may be a tad premature, don’t you think?

I hardly qualify as a right winger, but it doesn’t follow that UKUncut are above criticism, whatever their achievements. There are plenty of real issues out there, but surely it’s more important to pick the right fights than crow about the scars you picked up in the wrong ones?

Awareness of tax issues has certainly been raised but to what end ?

Let’s see. Many more people aware of the issue > more pressure on govt to do something about it.

Politically easier for Labour govts and Libdems to push on legislation (Tories won’t do it) on tax avoidance.

HMRC’s Dave Hartnett out!

Issue now a front-page Middle England concern.

Stronger HMRC action against tax avoiders.

But according to some people nothing has changed! Hilarious.

@21 Sunny

People aren’t saying nothing has changed; indeed they have even acknowledged the positive impact…. what they are saying is that it is much to early for you or anyone else to be declaring “mission accomplished”. As hubristic claims go, yours must rate up there with George W’s after the fall of Saddam Sunny! Have a little perspective.

It remains to be seen whether Newer Labour or whoever else forms the next government actually does anything radical with respect to the tax system. It would of course be nice to think that nice Mr Balls might come up with something… oh, you know… radical or progressive…?

I for one won’t be holding my breath.

It’s right to celebrate progress; it’s stupid to hail the progress to date as job done.

@ Sunny

Those issues all largely predate UKUncut. And I’d say the reason tax is on front page of UK papers today is because of parliaments report on HMRC deals and the HMRC whistleblower and not UKUncut’s actions.

Like many on the Left who only began taking an interest in economicsin 2008 the likes of UKUncut seem unaware that plenty has been going on about tax avoidance and evasion over the last ten years or more. Concerns over tax havens have been much discussed in financial circles for years. There was banking secrecy laws signed with Channel Islands almost ten years ago and this led on to suspect deals with Lichenstein and Switzerland.

I repeat my criticism that the issues specifically associated with UKUncut have been poorly chosen as the forthcoming Vodafone issue will almost certainly show.

I just don’t see this as helpful to the campaign that has been being waged for years against actual evasion and avoidance like the stamp duty scam.

Trying to nit pick on whether UK Uncut are correct on every matter of tax is missing the point, politics doesn’t work like that.
In every budget the Chancellor states he will close tax loopholes, it was a Lib Dem pledge in 2010 .. but nothing much ever happens, a few telegraphed regulations which the accountants have a work around pre-prepared are put in.

UK Uncut make a splash and everyone is talking about it, everyone is annoyed about it, as Sunny says it makes it easier to clampdown, it may even make it impossible for a reluctant Tory govt not to clampdown.

That’s how politics works, voters want easy ideas, black and white.
Take the deficit reduction, every economist tells you you need to spend your way out of a recession, but every voter “understands” debt like a credit card bill. So it becomes a powerful idea (possibly too powerful?)

As for Mrs Green, according to Wikipedea she owns 92% of Arcadia, how did she afford that? Did Philip marry a multi-millionaire? or are they really his shares given to her to avoid paying tax?
Of course it’s not illegal, but as with UkUncut and the deficit, it is the idea that counts. Voters can see it is moraly wrong. A nurse who’s real wages will go down by 16% over this parliament, who has to pay every penny of due tax PAYE will know that it is wrong.

Freudian slip !

I meant similar deals and not suspect deals. Tho I admit the Swiss deal has holes (tho waiting for EU to come up with a better deal may be a long wait).

Reading your list again of achievements of UKUncut they are all variations of “raising awareness”.

I’d ask this though. Why does Labour never mention the tax gap or avoidance in any economic speech or policy. Ed Balls never mentioned tax avoidance in his reply to Oshornes budget or autumn statement. There is no mention of stopping taxevasion as way to fund proposed VAT cut.

The reason, I’m sure, is that Balls well knows from Treasury experience that there really aren’t billions being avoided and let off by HMRC.

I have to agree with Galen here. UK Uncut started off well and did bring wider attention to tax avoidance, but they swiftly disappeared up their own backsides. I still think the occupation of Fortnum and Mason has to be one of the most moronic occupations in years, if not decades, as was the subsequent criticism of the police for daring to arrest people who were clearly breaking the law, although it seems most didn’t realise they were. Their involvement with Occupy has been disastrous, and appears to have derailed any chance of success at St. Paul’s. They can still fine tune their message and pick more deserving targets, but they look a busted flush now.

“As for Mrs Green, according to Wikipedea she owns 92% of Arcadia, how did she afford that? Did Philip marry a multi-millionaire? or are they really his shares given to her to avoid paying tax?”

Taveta Ltd was formed for the express purpose of purchasing Arcadia. Mrs. Green had indeed had her own business and made her own money, yes. But it was the reputation that bought Arcadia. They formed a new company (cost, perhaps £300) went and borrowed a shit load of money and bought Arcadia.

It was, as the phrase goes, a leveraged takeover.

28. Luis Enrique

“Many more people aware of the issue > more pressure on govt to do something about it.”

Yes, even if, say, everything uk uncut had to say about top shop, Barclays and Vodafone was bollocks, that doesnt mean actual legislative and institutional attention will be misdirected.

That said, not too happy defending campaign bodies talking bollocks on basis it “works”

“My criticism of UKUncut has been that they have made the call for a crack down on tax evasion harder by attacking the wrong targets”

CONERN TROLLING AT IT’S WORST.

The trolls are spinning even more than Piers Morgan is doing today.

@11

“For instance TopShop does pay full UK corporation tax. Philip Green pays full UK taxes. It is Philip Greens wife who avoids tax.”

Which branch of Topshop does she work in? The Wikipedia entry is interesting: “Green assisted Tina Green in the purchase the Arcadia Group in 2002. The company was briefly owned by Green but sold to Tina Green within 24 hours, with Philip acting as CEO.”

Interesting relationship they have. Everything I own is jointly with my wife: isn’t that what marriage is about? This arrangement wasn’t done because Tina Green gets a kick out of being a billionaire (or that she runs the company through teleworking from Monaco), it was done so that she would not get taxed, and Sir Philip (who runs the company from his London hotel room during the week) can enjoy the benefits of that.

@15

“So even this might not work: ‘UK passport holders need to pay full UK tax'”

Maybe charge her for each footstep she makes on UK soil? £100k per step? She could be followed around by a town crier telling her how many cataract operations and kidney dialysis sessions each step is funding. She may even enjoy it and dance a jig for us, so that we can fund a premature baby unit.

A small victory by UKuncut awakens a myriad of naysayers who creep out of the woodwork to promote their ancient impotent agendas.
IGNORE THEM, UKuncut. YOU are the way forward.

32. Barrington Womble

Because no one had ever mentioned corporate tax avoidance until UK Uncut came along, had they? But now, a merely year after Sunny and his mates bravely went to Top Shop, The Telegraph has written about it. Get in.

The sweet , sweet smell of tory troll roasting like chestnuts on a fire.

Interesting relationship they have. Everything I own is jointly with my wife: isn’t that what marriage is about?

No. This was something that Parliament considered a few decades back and decided that no, this was not the case. Married women could indeed own property separately from their husbands. You know, this idea that women are in fact more than just the keepthing of some man.

Independent humnan beings even, capable of owning their own property.

My, they’ll be opening their own bank accounts soon enough, you mark my words.

sally at 33…that’s funny…all I am getting is the sound of ignorant anti-rich people disappearing up their fundamental orifices because they know nothing about the matters under discussion

To criticise UKUncut for actions that may have backfired a little is to suggest that people shouldn’t protest unless they can do so flawlessly. This concern for perfection when protesting against an obvious injustice is not friendly criticism, it’s utterly misguided faux-idealism.

UKUncut, False Economy, 38 Degrees and the like have made a huge difference, representing the use of new media to organise effective opposition that we have never previously seen. I am very pleased at this turn of events in the face of deeply reactionary politics from our main parties and a press that mostly represents the interests of tax-efficient millionaires who don’t even live here.

@34. Tim Worstall: “Married women could indeed own property separately from their husbands. You know, this idea that women are in fact more than just the keepthing of some man.”

I follow your argument absolutely. I also suspect that the legal arguments would be very interesting should Mr and Mrs Green choose to divorce.

“I also suspect that the legal arguments would be very interesting should Mr and Mrs Green choose to divorce.”

As do I. Definitely something to buy popcorn for that would be.

I would assume that it would be a 50/50 split (the asset was purchased after their marriage after all) and , umm, aren’t divorce settlements tax free? So, actually, that would be one way that Philip could get hold of the assets without paying tax? Or 50% of them, anyway?

That would be popcorn time….

39. Tax Obesity, Not Business

So, Sunny, you now think that even the Daily Mail can be correct on occasion. Well, to my surprise, I find The Guardian actually publishing something sensible about taxation and implicitly criticising Richard Murphy ad UKUncut:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/economics-blog/2011/dec/19/corporation-tax-cut-europe?INTCMP=SRCH

“The TUC and tax campaigner Richard Murphy’s groundbreaking 2008 report The Missing Billions: The UK Tax Gap, found a £12.5bn difference between what companies should have paid in corporation tax annually and what they really paid.

Some on the left argue, as the TUC did, that governments should play hardball with companies and make them pay the full charge.

But not only is that a forlorn task against the run of play (when governments across Europe are reducing corporation tax rates), it is wrong headed.

We need to generate taxes to fund social welfare and for that we need to redraw the tax map. I subscribe to the OECD’s recipe for reform. Despite the Paris thinktank’s reputation for rightwing, pro-capitalist reforms, in this case it is pretty even-handed.

It would reduce all taxes on income and increase taxes on spending and wealth.

Unfortunately, the proposal leaves most leftists gasping for air. What do you say when a proposal slays the sacred cows you hold dear, but also slays those of the opposition?”

That scratching sound you can here is a giant barrel being scraped by tory trolls.

Tim Worstall, your question seems to have been thoroughly answered.

You can do your “Married women’s rights!” schtick if you like, but anyone with an eighth of a brain can see that the reason Green’s wife (a) owns the company he runs, and (b) lives in a tax-haven is… drum roll… as a tax dodge.

@ Sally

As you evidently feel strongly about this subject why don’t you actually engage in the debate rather than just complain about Tory trolling.

The accusation of Tory trolling is particularly risible as almost all the tax affairs being complained about by UKUncut happened under a Labour administration.

I ask you, as I ask Sunny, why are the two Eds not banging on every day that £25bn can be raised from tax revenues just by not “letting off” the rich from tax.

@41. Larry: “You can do your “Married women’s rights!” schtick if you like, but anyone with an eighth of a brain can see that the reason Green’s wife (a) owns the company he runs, and (b) lives in a tax-haven is… drum roll… as a tax dodge.”

I am not Tim. He can reply for himself.

But can you not see… if it it is a tax job… Mr Green risks losing half of his deal if Mrs Green chooses to walk out of the marriage.

“they’ve continuously been attacked from anarchist groups.”
bullshit.

bullshit.

I’ve amended the text to say ‘have been attacked by some anarchists, which I know to be true, and has been confirmed to me by people within UKuncut. Though it’s cute to see how heated up anarchos get when there’s even the minor suggestion any anarchists are acting like the People’s Front of Judea.

“You can do your “Married women’s rights!” schtick if you like, but anyone with an eighth of a brain can see that the reason Green’s wife (a) owns the company he runs, and (b) lives in a tax-haven is… drum roll… as a tax dodge.”

So, let’s agree it is a tax dodge then. Now, how do we change the tax law so that it cannot happen?

a) Tax wives as belonging to their husbands?

b) Tax dividends paid to foreigners?

a) has certain problems to do with women’s rights and so on, individuality etc.
b) has certain problems because it will dissuade foreigners from investing their money in the UK.

Neither of these are insurmountable but which would you do?

Tim, I’ve no idea.

But what I do know is that chanting “Philip Green pay your tax” is eminently defensible – indeed commendable – in these circs. Which is where we started.

@ Larry

As Tim W points out there are practical difficulties in dealing with people moving overseas to avoid tax. However there us no need for the state to reward them with titles if they do. If Lady Green chooses to move to Monaco then surely the state can revoke her title.

Perhaps she might think being a Lady is worth a few 100 million of tax.

The trouble is with social disapproval of tax avoidance is that millions of Brits don’t seem to care. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are hugely popular despite tax avoiding in Monaco and Switzerland. Unlike the commendable Andy Murray, another international sportsman, who lives in the UK.

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

The big issue here is surely how Corporations structure their tax affairs internationally in order to avoid high taxation areas. I recently looked at how to set up in Jersey where Corporation tax runs from 0 – 10%. There is national concern here,clearly because if cash can flow out of the nation state there are serious implications for how the rest of the community funds its services and ultimately survives as a democracy. The role of offshore banking I believe is very serious and its significance is indicated by the Indian experience whereby 43% of Foreign Investment is routed through Mauritius.For the UK ,which invented the offshore scam, we have plenty more islands to work into and out of.
Why hasnt Ed Balls mentioned any of this?Mainly, I suspect, because, like every other recent government, he knows not to bite the hand that feeds the exchequer.
Like justice ,politics works in the interest of the stronger.I cant see that balance being altered in the near future. People like Green and Hartnett might be popular targets but they are merely singular manesfestations of a massive global problem.

Sunny,

But no one had ever tried to raise public awareness of corporate tax avoidance before, and certainly no one had got the Daily Mail on side on it either. Only UKuncut managed that.

What a bizarre thing to claim. Private Eye (for one) has been banging on about avoidance and unfairness for years (IIRC UK Uncut crediting / citing the Eye, among others). The Daily Mail has talked about corporate tax avoidance, rich tax dodgers etc for years too. UK Uncut has been successful in drawing attention to the issue, but it is not true at all to say “no one had ever tried to raise public awareness of corporate tax avoidance before”.

septicisle,

I have to agree with Galen here. UK Uncut started off well and did bring wider attention to tax avoidance, but they swiftly disappeared up their own backsides. I still think the occupation of Fortnum and Mason has to be one of the most moronic occupations in years, if not decades, as was the subsequent criticism of the police for daring to arrest people who were clearly breaking the law, although it seems most didn’t realise they were. Their involvement with Occupy has been disastrous, and appears to have derailed any chance of success at St. Paul’s. They can still fine tune their message and pick more deserving targets, but they look a busted flush now.

I hold a somewhat opposite view. I think UK Uncut has done very well to draw attention to their cause and I think it’s Occupy (in the UK) or people involved with it in some way that are in danger of disappearing up its own arse*. I’m not sure how the F&M occupation was “moronic” or “backfired” (Sunny’s word); I agree that some of them didn’t seem to know they were breaking the law, but OTOH it drew attention to their cause, and it kept supporters on side with the propaganda (“They arrested people for protesting!” was the claim). Wasn’t that the point?

* Something that immediately springs to mind is from the other day when some online discussion of how to respond to (alleged) rapes involved talk of “methodological individualists” and “aggregate and conglomerate collectivities”.

51. Terry Stewart

“I’ve amended the text to say ‘have been attacked by some anarchists, which I know to be true, and has been confirmed to me by people within UKuncut. Though it’s cute to see how heated up anarchos get when there’s even the minor suggestion any anarchists are acting like the People’s Front of Judea.”

Am I the only one who doesn’t understand Sunny’s uppity attitude to anarchists? I’m not one myself but I don’t subscribe to the witchhunt attitude against them you see by many. It seems to me that UK Uncut contains, from the very first working group, a strong contingent of both anarchist ideas and anarchist participants and fair play to them. Anarchist groups in general seem to have a good influence within British politics- I’m thinking elements within climate camp, supporting the Sparks at the moment, elements within Occupy, and supporting a lot of workplace struggles deemed “beneath” trade union groups.

Can someone explain to me the back story why Sunny/Liberal Conspiracy has such a thing about them? Is this a thing handed down from the Labour Party? Would be appreciated just to put all this in context.

52. David Quoosp

48 posts in and I’m none the wiser.

Is Philip Green doing anything illegal? I know he’s ‘dodging’ tax, but is it illegal?

Or does the law need changing?

Can anyone help?

53. Frances_coppola

I am very worried by UKUncut’s attacks on Lady Green’s ownership of Arcadia.

Legislation allowing married women to own property in their own right was fought for by the forerunners of the women’s movement and enshrined in UK law in 1870. It is already undermined by entitlements of married partners – as I discovered when I found the husband I was divorcing, who lived in the house that I bought before we married but had no legal title to it and did not contribute to the mortgage, was entitled to 50% of the equity simply because he was married to me.

Separate taxation of married women has been part of the tax code since 1990, and composite taxation has been banned since 1991. Both of these are now under attack because the tax credits system is based on joint income of couples.

Do we really want to undo these improvements in the status of women simply because one high-profile couple chooses to abuse them? Shouldn’t we instead be fighting to preserve them?

54. Kenth Gustafsson

I also feel that ukuncut has inspired many of us in a way that many of the rest of us, including Guardian journalists and others have failed to do. The criticism that the target has not been well chosen is way off the mark. The argument that ukuncut make is not merely political and financial – it is also importantly moral! If Philip Green bags off cash to his wife in Monaco – she is not the morally offensive one, he is!, whatever the UK tax law says about people making it through Heathrow without being caught.

Is Philip Green doing anything illegal? I know he’s ‘dodging’ tax, but is it illegal?

Easy enough to answer. No he is not.

Questionable if he is even doing anything immoral really, unless you actually believe you should pay as much as possible to the state.

So, let’s agree it is a tax dodge then. Now, how do we change the tax law so that it cannot happen?

a) Tax wives as belonging to their husbands?

b) Tax dividends paid to foreigners?

a) has certain problems to do with women’s rights and so on, individuality etc.
b) has certain problems because it will dissuade foreigners from investing their money in the UK.

Neither of these are insurmountable but which would you do?

Er, tax dividends paid to foreigners!

I think getting foreigners to pay tax on divis paid on business profits earned here would be very popular actually.

@shinsei67

Awareness of tax issues has certainly been raised but to what end ?

This has to be one of the most glaringly idiotic questions I’ve ever seen.

@ BenM

Corporation tax has already been paid on the profits that the dividends are paid out of.

The shareholder who gets the dividends then pays income tax in his own country.

@ BenM

Hardly “idiotic” when people like you still don’t seem to have even the most basic idea about how tax works (as evidenced by your dividend comment).

UKUncut hasnt achieved Vodafone paying more tax (which I am sure it doesn’t actually owe). It hasn’t made any difference to the Greens and no one is suggesting making it illegal to move overseas. The complaints about Barclays paying nor much tax have just shown the ignorance of tax loss carry forwards.

That’s what I mean by what has UKUncut achieved.

The real and years old battle against bank secrecy and tax havens is being conducted by others.

I think getting foreigners to pay tax on divis paid on business profits earned here would be very popular actually.

It would indeed be very popular4. It would also be economically very stupid. Because we like foreigners investing here. Because labour plus capital is what makes labour more productive. More productive labour equals higher wages for labour.

So, telling foreigners they’ll have to pay more tax on investing in hte UK equals fewer foreigners investing less and over time, weages in the UK go down.

Popular ideas are not always good ideas…..

@ TimW

And it would be popular until every other country in the world forced UK based Brits to pay income tax in the country it was earned.

So instead of JK Rowling paying tens of millions to HMRC on her global earnings she’ll be filling out 100 foreign tax forms and paying income tax to Japan, Australia, South Korea, Mexico etc etc

62. Luis Enrique

never mind that taxing foreigners on uk dividends may dissuade investment in the UK, the real problem is what happens when other countries reciprocate and tax UK investors on th dividend income they earn from overseas investments.

That’s why we don’t do it, we’d lose more than we gain.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Keith Parkins

    In 1 year @ukuncut has inspired 1000s of people to protest + us to take HMRC to court over tax dodging. Not too shabby! http://t.co/yEn4vnJC

  2. James Copp

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words http://t.co/9qSlbGtm

  3. a paedophile

    my god. the little cunt weasel actually said it http://t.co/dIe5uXUj

  4. Paul Rhoades

    Wtf? "anarchist groups" attacked ukuncut. This guys a joke.. http://t.co/WobG7d37

  5. Watching You

    'Those who once derided UK Uncut should now eat their words' http://t.co/UgD3A1lZ < by me, today

  6. Warren O'Keefe

    Those who once derided @UKuncut now have to eat their words. Plus, three lessons they taught us http://t.co/UgD3A1lZ

  7. Jonathan Taylor

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words http://t.co/9qSlbGtm

  8. Paul Rooke

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/PbhgFD6O #NoCuts Pay Your #Tax

  9. Owen Blacker

    'Those who once derided UK Uncut should now eat their words' http://t.co/UgD3A1lZ < by me, today

  10. heathercroall

    'Those who once derided UK Uncut should now eat their words' http://t.co/UgD3A1lZ < by me, today

  11. ROBIN MACFARLANE

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/PbhgFD6O #NoCuts Pay Your #Tax

  12. George Forth

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/33BMv0KQ via @libcon

  13. Jimmy Monsta Funk

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/R6teexVu via @libcon

  14. Mark Carrigan

    Those who once derided @UKuncut should now eat their words | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5Fm95rIk via @libcon





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