Press release: UK Uncut Target HSBC over £2bn Tax Avoidance


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ukuncut.org
For Immediate Release

UK UNCUT TARGET HSBC OVER £2BILLION TAX AVOIDANCE

UK Uncut have revealed today that HSBC is their latest target after it emerged yesterday that the bank is trying to be let off a £2billion tax bill. UK Uncut activists have today secretly targeted two of its branches in central London and Liverpool.

This follows on from an investigation printed only yesterday in Private-Eye by the former HMRC tax-inspector Richard Brookes. In it, he states that following the decision by HMRC to reduce Vodafone’s tax bill by up to £6billion, it is thought that HSBC are trying to reach a similar settlement which will reduce their tax bill by £2billion. The current Trade Minister, Stephen Green, was also the Chief Executive of HSBC throughout the period that this tax avoidance took place

In central London, 23 activists have staged a ‘sleep-in’ [1] as the £2bn that HSBC will save could have paid for the estimated £1.8bn cuts to housing benefit which will force many to lose their homes. 20 Activists are currently occupying an HSBC branch in central Liverpool.

Emi Summers says “Its bad enough Vodafone got let off, but now other companies like HSBC are all pushing to get the same deal from HMRC. With a current Minister having led the bank while this tax dodging was happening who knows what dodgy back room deals are going on. These companies should be made to pay the full tax so we can save our vital public services from being slashed”

This comes as UK Uncut holds its biggest day of action yet with protests taking place in over 50 towns and cities across the country against the coalition’s public sector cuts and wide-spread tax avoidance by the wealthiest in society.

Elsewhere, Sir Philip Green and Vodafone are likely to remain the focus of the growing public anger against tax avoidance by multi-national corporations and extremely wealthy individuals, that is estimated to cost the public purse £25billion every single year [2].

Each protest around the country has been organised autonomously by local people, often rapidly via Twitter and Facebook. Protests planned for today include pickets, sit-ins and flashmobs. There will be a disruptive tour of tax dodgers in Brighton and a ‘Monaco Grand Prix’ around Topshop in Oxford.

In London, hundreds of protesters will hit Oxford Street. Divided into two groups, they will stage a ‘read in’ at Vodafone’s flagship store and a ‘sports day’ inside Topshop’s flagship store, to highlight cuts to local libraries and school sports. Philip Green’s £285m tax dodge could pay for two years of school sports and Vodafone’s tax dodge could pay for every single cut to local governments this year.

Protesters have even designed an iPhone app to help people angry at the cuts to locate their local tax avoider and join their nearest protest [3].

Sir Philip Green owns the fashion empire Arcadia, which spreads across 2,500 UK stores and includes top brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins [4]

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 [5]

Sir Philip Green is not however the official owner of Taveta Investments. Instead, the owners are his wife and immediate family, who reside in Monaco [6]

Monaco is of course famous for its 0% income tax. As a result, when Sir Philip Green – the 9th richest man in the UK with wealth estimated at £4.4bn in 2008 – in 2005 made the largest single dividend payout in UK corporate history to his wife of £1.2bn, he avoided paying a reported £285million in tax to the British public purse [7]

Amid criticism from key MPs, Sir Philip Green was also asked by the coalition government this year to advise them on austerity and cuts within the civil service [7]

Steven Hall, 31, 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.”

The UK uncut movement started in October, when over 30 Vodafone stores were closed by ordinary people who blockaded and picketed the store’s entrances to stop trading 13 [8]

Those protests were sparked after Vodafone 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 £6bn in tax [9].

Rebecca Davies, 32, said: “Over four years £100bn is expected to be lost the public purse to tax avoidance, which could pay for so many of the cuts that will hit the poorest in our society”

“The argument that only way to cut the public deficit is to cut public services is a lie. The coalition is ideologically smashing a public sector that supports the poorest in society.”

She continued today that “Ordinary people around Britain will stand up and show that they will not be lied to, and that we will not let these unnecessary cuts happen without a fight.”

ENDS
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For further comment:
UK Uncut: | ukuncut@gmail.com | 07591992825 |
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Notes to editors:

[1] http://twitpic.com/3h29it

http://twitpic.com/3h2884

[2] Richard Murphy, a long standing and respected campaigner on the issue of tax-avoidance has produced a report stating that 25bn is lost to the public purse by tax avoidance. £13bn through individuals. £12bn through large corporations.
http://www.tuc.org.uk/touchstone/Missingbillions/1missingbillions.pdf

[3] http://ukuncut.mobi/

[4] http://www.arcadiagroup.co.uk/about/index.html Arcadia also own, Burton, Wallis, Evans and Topman.

[5] http://www.arcadiagroup.co.uk/about/index.html
And the office in jersey was shown by Channel 4’s Dispatches broadcast on Monday 18th October.
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-72/episode-1

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2004/nov/03/money

[7] http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2010/08/13/sir-philip-green-the-wrong-man-to-head-a-review-of-public-spending/

[8] see www.ukuncut.org

[9] The original investigation was completed by Richard Brookes, a tax inspector, at Private-Eye, but has since been written about by other journalists.
http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_back
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=514832&in_page_id=2
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/14/vodafone-tax-evasion-revenue-customs