The end of January is tax return time, and businesses up and down the country are working hard to make sure their numbers get in on time. For those businesses and individuals that choose to find morally dubious methods to avoid paying those taxes, the end of the month is going to be more interesting than usual.
UKUncut’s Big Society Revenue And Customs have called for the day before the deadline, this coming Sunday, to be the moment for their biggest high street action yet. As well as the usual targets, new dodgers have come to light and are in the frame. This time around, Boots, whose move to Switzerland in 2008 lost the UK around £100m in tax profits per year, will see the sort of action that has already shut down Top Shop and Vodafone stores across the country. Week on week, more friendly UK high street names are being shown up to be sharp practitioners, using armies of lawyers to exploit legal loopholes that are costing us billions of pounds in lost revenue every year.
Kraft, who recently bought Cadbury’s, have shown the direction of their moral compass by moving part of their business to …guess where? Switzerland, depriving the Exchequer of an estimated £60million a year. Even Tesco do it. A company that turns over profits of 3.4billion will go through extreme contortions in the courtroom to avoid land tax and stamp duty. And yes, they also have a presence in Switzerland.
The fact that these numbers are out there, can be easily shared and discussed, and allow us to ask questions that Boots and Philip Green would really rather prefer we didn’t, is a direct result of action and data-sharing from organisations like UKUncut and bloggers like the excellent Richard Murphy. Better yet, by motivating ordinary people up and down the country to make it plain that we don’t approve of the shenanigans of big business (and let’s never forget, financial shenanigans from large corporate structures that considered themselves to be above the law are what got us into the current mess in the first place), the regulators are now taking an interest. The National Audit Office will be looking into how deals were struck with HMRC by Vodafone and others. It’s also going to assess how HMRC can do it’s job properly as hundreds of tax inspectors are laid off following the latest round of public sector layoffs. This is brilliant news, and a real sign that direct action has genuine and palpable results.
I can’t wait to see what the documents WikiLeaks are releasing from Swiss banking whistleblower Rudolf Elmer have to say. I think those corporations and super-rich individuals who think they can shirk their obligations are in for a very interesting few months.