UK Uncut campaigners highlight missing corporate billions

By staff writers
December 6, 2010

Amidst growing public anger over UK public spending cuts, protests over tax avoidance by big business and wealthy individuals hit high streets across the country this weekend.

Under the banner of 'UK Uncut' nearly 30 different towns and cities have so far protested against the alleged tax avoidance of companies like Boots Alliance and Vodafone.

However it has been Sir Philip Green and his fashion empire - Arcadia - which spreads across 2,500 UK stores and includes top brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins that has born the brunt of the protests.

On Oxford Street, London, on Saturday 4 December 2010, a sit-in forced the five-storey flagship Topshop store to close, before protesters moved onto close BHS, Vodafone, Boots, and Dorothy Perkins.

In Brighton, 18 activists were arrested following the shut down of a Topshop, where protesters super-glued themselves to the window.

Vodafone and Topshops stores were closed in a further 6 cities - Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford Newcastle - with protests occuring in an additional 13 locations - Southampton, Stroud, Portsmouth, Lewisham, Reading, Wood Green, York, Liecester, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

Sir Philip Green's empire Acardia is owned by Taveta Investments Limited - a holding company registered to a small office on the tax-haven island of Jersey.

However, Sir Philip is not the official owner of Taveta Investments. Instead, the owners are his wife and immediate family, who reside in Monaco - famous for its zero per cent income tax.

As a result, when Green, the ninth richest man in the UK with wealth estimated at £4.4 billion in 2008, made the largest single dividend payout in UK corporate history to his wife of £1.2 billion in 2005, he avoided paying a reported £285 million in tax to the British public purse.

Despite criticism from MPs, Green was also asked by the coalition government this year to advise them on austerity and cuts within the civil service.

Protest leader Daniel Garvin, aged 26, said "Philip Green is a multi-billionaire tax avoider, and yet is regarded by David Cameron as an appropriate man to advise the government on austerity. His missing millions need to be reclaimed and invested into public services, not into his wife's bank account."

Saturday also saw the launch of the 'Big Society Revenue and Customs' Servive (BSRC) by UK Uncut, following the announcement that the official HM Revenue and Customs faces thousands of job cuts following a 15 per cent cut in its budget.

Commenting on the launch of BSRC, Daniel Garvin said: "David Cameron wants ordinary people in their spare time to carry out vital state run services that have been cut, so this is exactly what we're doing. If HMRC won't chase down tax avoiders, then we will."

This weekend's protests are expected to be just the first in a series of actions against Sir Philip Green and other corporations by the BSRC across the Christmas period.

They follow on from protests against the communications giant, Vodafone, last month that resulted in over 30 of its stores being closed by ordinary people who blockaded and picketed its entrances to stop trading.

The demonstrations were sparked after the corporation reached a ‘settlement’ on a long standing tax dispute with HMRC earlier this year, following the change in government. Some experts believe the deal meant that Vodafone saved up to £6 billion in tax. On Saturday 30 October all three Vodafone Stores were closed for the day on Oxford Street, London.

Rebecca Davies, aged 32, commented: "The cuts will hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the hardest are based on ideology, not necessity. There is an alternative. The tax gap in the UK is an estimated £120 billion, £25 billion of this down to tax avoidance by extremely wealthy individuals and big business, while the government is barely lifting a finger to stop it."

"Ordinary people around Britain have stood up and shown that we will not let these unnecessary cuts happen without a fight," she declared.

The actions came at the same time as dozens of student protests against massive fee hikes, which included a university sit-in in Sheffield, demonstrations in major cities, and mobilisations which forced the cancellation of a Liberal Democrat conference.

More on UK Uncut:

Richard Murphy's report on corporate tax avoidance and the UK's "missing billions" on the TUC's website (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document):


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