Posts Tagged ‘pay your taxes’

Eight events

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I find that I was wrong to suggest in an earlier post that covering seven events on Human Rights Day was a personal record, as on Saturday 17th December 2011 I managed to photograph eight protests.

It was a big day for UK Uncut, protesting about the failure of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to get major companies operating in the UK to make proper contributions to our tax revenue. If HMRC had got them to pay up, there would be no need for the massive cuts in public services that were being imposed by the government after the financial crisis. UK Uncut claim that corporate tax doging costs the UK £25 billion a year, four times the amount of the cuts.

Their protest began with UK Uncut’s Santa and two helpers calling at the Westminster offices of the head of UK tax collection with a present, a card and a sack of barbecue charcoal. Dave Hartnett, the man in charge of HMRC had recently let Vodaphone who owed £6 billion pay only around a fifth of what they owed, losing taxpayers £4.75 billion as well as giving an £8 million handout to Goldman Sachs. Mr Hartnett was about to retire with a massive pension despite a series of blunders which cost us a fortune.

As I wrote:

The UK seems to be loophole central for the rich, not just for taxes but also for the kind of fraudulent unregulated creation of imaginary money that has sustained and grown the City since the ‘big bang’ and lies at the epicentre of our current world financial crisis. Doubtless it is too much to hope that Mr Hartnett will be called to account for his relatively small part in this process, but as a taxpayer it pains me to think of him retiring and enjoying an excessive civil service pension for his misdeeds.

A rather larger group of protesters met on Oxford St to protest outside Topshop against the failure of the Arcadia group to pay UK tax on its UK earnings. Sir Philip Green, who took huge amounts of money out of the group eventually leading this year to its collapse with a vast hole in its pension fund, runs a vast empire that includes Topshop, BHS and Dorothy Perkins, but exploits a loophole in that the business is owned by his Monaco-based wife who does not have to pay income tax.

Police had come out in large numbers to protect Topshop, although the protest was expected to be (and was) entirely peaceful. They obstructed the press who were attempting to report on the event, lying to us that we would be allowed to re-enter the store to cover the protest inside, and then aggressively moved on the protesters claiming with little justification that they were causing an obstruction; as I commented, it was clearly a large block of police that were obstructing the pavement and not the protesters.

Police behaved rather better when the protest moved on to Vodaphone, making no attempt to stop the protest on the pavement outside the shop, while forming a line to prevent more than a few early arrivals to get inside the shop.

The protesters made effective use of a ‘Human Microphone’ to shout out in unison a series of short statements about the reason for the protest; they stated that when they first protested about Vodaphone they were told the £6 billion of tax dodged was “an urban myth”, but they had now been told it may have been £8 billion. The protest continued with them singing a number of Christmas carols specially adapted for the event, including:

Away in a mansion
On my four poster bed
You lie outside freezing
While I'm resting my head

The stars in the bright sky
They sparkle like jewels
The ones that I paid for
By robbing you fools

and as I left had begun dancing on the pavement.

I left for Downing St, where Syrian Kurds were calling for an end to the massacres being carried out in Syria by the Assad regime forces – and on that day alone at least 32 civilians including two children were killed.

Kurds form almost a fifth of the Syrian population, and during the continuing civil war in the country have formed an autonomous region in the north of the country which became called Rojava. At the protest they were arguing for Syria after the war to become a federation, with considerable autonomy continuing for regions such as this, though many Kurds also support the formation of a separate nation of Kurdistan, including the Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey. Since the end of 2011 the situation has moved on with Turkey invading and occupying some of the Kurdish areas of Syria and the support of Russia for Assad which makes his eventual victory seem inevitable and the future looks even bleaker for the Kurds.

Also protesting opposite Downing St were a group of Congolese, continuing the protests in London against the election fraud, rapes and massacres and calling on the British government to withdraw its support from the immoral regime of President Kabila responsible for the atrocities and voted out by the people.

The continuing problems in the Congo region are the terrible consequence of the western exploitation of the area’s mineral resources such as Coltan – needed for mobile phones, the computers and other electronic devices on which our lives and the media now depend. But those media “have so far taken relatively little interest in the desperate situation of the people in the Congo. They seem to be being sacrificed while the vast natural resources of their country are being largely stolen by underhand deals which enrich a few in their and neighbouring countries while the industrialised world turns an almost totally blind eye to the violence and injustice.”

The protest outside the US Embassy celebrated the withdrawal of US troops, but also demanded that mercenaries still in Iraq should also be expelled, and the war criminals prosecuted. Iraqis also want an end to the looting and pillaging of Iraq’s natural resources and an end to government sponsored executions there. They were joined by Syrian supported of the Assad regime want the US to stop their attempts to interfere with events in Syria through UN resolutions and other means.

The BBC came in for criticism from the Iraqis as “a Patronizing Media Channel, With Racist Undertones, towards Arabs & Islam” and being “Deceptive and Inaccurate” and they asked “Why does it not report on the wide spread asset looting and corruption taking place in Iraq?”

Also outside the US Embassy was a vigil on the 24th birthday of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning whose pre-trail hearing was taking place. The protesters who included members of Veterans for Peace and Payday Men’s Network called him an American Peace Hero for leaking evidence of US war crimes.

It was beginning to get dark by the time I reached the Egyptian embassy where Egyptians had come to protest after the military attacks on protesters in Cairo, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 500.

It was a protest that was slow to start – and when I arrived on time I found only one person there. I waited, feeling increasingly frustrated as the light was disappearing rather faster than protesters were arriving. Half an hour later around 25 people had come and more were arriving and I took my pictures and left.

Egyptians Protest At Embassy
Bradley Manning Birthday Demo
Iraqis and Syrians Protest At US
Congolese Protests Continue
Kurds Call For A Stop To Syrian Massacres
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Vodaphone
UK Uncut Xmas Protest At Topshop
UK Uncut Santa Calls on Dave Hartnett


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Starbucks Pay Your Taxes

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

The recent failure of the Arcadia group brought memories of UK Uncut back to mind. Formed in 2010 this “grassroots movement using direct action to fight the cuts and highlight alternatives to austerity” organised a number of peaceful direct actions against tax dodgers in the following couple of years, though more recently it seems to have largely confined itself to posts on Twitter and Facebook – including this on 1st December this year by Rob:

It is not ‘Topshop owner Arcadia group could collapse into administration within days’, it’s ‘billionaire tax exile Sir Philip Green will let company in his wife’s name fail, with massive hole in pension pot and risking thousands of jobs at Christmas time during a pandemic.’

https://www.facebook.com/ukuncut/

I photographed a number of UK Uncut events, and their biggest day of action was 8 years ago today, on Saturday 8 Dec 2012 when there were over 45 protests at Starbucks shops across the UK with women, men and children transforming Starbucks stores into in refuges, crèches and homeless shelters in protest against the impact of the government’s cuts on women and their refusal to clamp down on tax avoidance.

While actions by UK Uncut and others have certainly done much to raise public awareness about the huge amount of tax evasion and tax avoidance by the rich and corporations in the UK it has led to very little action to cut it down. According to HMRC figures for 2018/9, quoted by Full Fact, the the ‘tax gap’ – money that should have been collected as tax but wasn’t – was around £35 billion, of which “£12 billion is attributed to tax evasion, avoidance and organised crime.” Full Fact suggest that tax evasion and avoidance is currently about 15 times greater than benefit fraud.

HMRC claim to have taken many measures to reduce this loss, but it continues to be huge, with far too many loopholes still remaining for the wealthy and companies to legally avoid paying tax on income generated in the UK. Much of the activity of the City of London is devoted to keeping things this way, along with laundering money from criminal enterprises – and the City has its own representative in our parliament – the City Remembrancer – to keep things that way.

Meanwhile, the newspapers and broadcast media plug away at the idea of ‘benefit scroungers’, creating a perception that this is far more widespread than is the case. A 2013 Ipsos Mori survey found that the general public thought that almost a quarter of benefits were fraudulently claimed – over 20 times the actual level. Of course it is still too high, as is the level of those who are underpaid benefits, which is almost as much.

I went with UK Uncut into two Starbucks just off Regent St, going into the Conduit St branch a few minutes before the widely advertised start time for the protest. Staff were denying entry to those they thought would be protesters but I walked in without any problem, and was standing in a long queue to the counter when the protest began. There were speeches and some chanting of slogans inside for around 10 minutes, along with a much larger and noisier group outside who had been refused entry before police arrived and ordered us out, falsely accusing the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers and threatening them with arrest. We all left quietly to join the large and loud protest outside.

I went down to the nearby Vigo St Starbucks where a similar protest was taking place but was not allowed in and had to take photographs through the windows. Eventually the crowd outside the shop was joined by the others from Conduit St and a rally began.

UK Uncut in Euston Rd Starbucks

I while the rally was continuing to photograph another of the London protests at the Euston Road branch of Starbucks, where the Labour Representation Committee was joining in with the UK Uncut day of action. By the time they arrived, rather later than the advertised time, other UK Uncut supporters had already decided to go inside and sit down, and the doors were locked. Police were rather more friendly here and came and discussed the situation with those sitting down inside, who agreed they would leave when they were requested to do so by the management and then continue the protest outside.

More about the protests at:
Starbucks Euston Road – LRC
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.