Campaigners claiming Vodafone has been let off an unpaid tax bill of £6 billion blockaded several shops across the UK yesterday (14 June).
Four shops in central London, including the on one Oxford Street, described as Vodaphone's "flagship store", were forced to close on Saturday because of the demonstrations. Other shops in Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hastings, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and York were also closed by demonstrations
Protesters were demanding that Vodafone pay the billions in tax which they say is owed to the public purse and say that the government should force corporations to pay up. UK Uncut says the protests highlight the current "social housing crisis", which they claim the Government are making worse by cutting housing benefits, slashing funding for affordable homes and failing to build social housing. Current estimates suggest that 1.6 million families are on the waiting list for social housing and that 50,000 people face eviction due to the bedroom tax.
Vodafone was the first company to be targeted in a series of high-profile protests by UK Uncut for avoiding a £6 billion tax bill in 2010. UK uncut say it was recently revealed that Vodafone have not paid any corporation tax in the UK since 2011 despite making a post-tax profit of £59.4 billion this year. The protests are taking place just six weeks before Vodafone's AGM and less than a year before the general election in which the government’s record on tackling tax avoidance while slashing public spending will be centre stage.
UK Uncut activist Emma Sanchez said "We had a great party in Vodafone’s flagship store with mums, kids, babies, disabled activists and lots of passers-by joining in. We are sick of the government letting corporations like Vodafone dodge billions every year whilst millions of people are left without decent safe housing."
Jasmine Stone, a member of Focus E15, a group of single mothers and their children, said: "Blockading the doors of Vodafone’s flagship store today was incredible and we won’t stop protesting until this government stop the cuts and make corporations pay their fair share."
A Vodaphone spokesperson said: "We pay our taxes in the UK and all of the other countries in which we operate.
"Reports suggesting that we have an outstanding tax bill for £6 billion are incorrect, as this was never the case."
A spokesperson for HMRC said: "We can't comment on the details of the settlement but we can confirm that it was reached by HMRC following a rigorous examination of the facts. It was agreed that Vodafone's liability was £1.25 billion and at no point was the liability greater than that.
"There is no question of Vodafone having a tax liability of £6 billion. That number is an urban myth."
However, campaigners cite an investigation by Private Eye magazine which they said showed HMRC had dropped an attempt to reclaim £6 billion in taxes. The sum is said to arise from Vodafone's purchase of the German telecoms firm Mannesmann, supposedly bought through a Luxembourg subsidiary to avoid paying tax in Britain.