Why I’m using my tax rebate to sue the taxman
A couple of days before Christmas, a letter came in the mail for me. It was for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, telling me I was due a tax rebate of £80.89.
Coming in the festive season, there was a few things I was considering spending it on. In the end, I decided to gamble my £80.89 in the hope of getting back £10 million. I donated the money HMRC gave me to UK Uncut Legal Action, who are planning to sue HMRC for letting Goldman Sachs off paying £10 million in tax.
Goldman had been dragged through the British courts for years over a failed tax avoidance scheme, involving all of their London bankers being employed by a subsidiary company in the British Virgin Islands (a tax haven east of Puerto Rico) then ‘seconded’ to London. Due to pay £40 million, HMRC’s Permanent Secretary, Dave Hartnett, allegedly ‘shook hands’ on an agreement with Goldman to let them off £10 million of the bill.
Although this controversy (and some creative protest) has since forced Hartnett to resign, and the spotlight is now on this particular deal, this is the absolute tip of the iceberg when it comes to corporate tax avoidance. George Osborne letting Vodafone off £6bn. Google making £6 billion in the UK and paying just £8 million tax on it, then blaming the UK’s ‘weak tax laws’. Serial tax avoider Phillip Green being appointed as a government adviser on slashing public spending. And that’s just a few examples.
Estimates of total tax avoidance in the UK range from £100-120bn a year. The Treasury suggested in a leaked document in 2006 that it could be even more than that. Nicholas Shaxon’s ‘Treasure Islands’ demonstrates just how much of an industry, a profession, that avoiding tax is to these people. The mind boggles at the wrongs you could right with that kind of money.
It’s been said time and again, but quite simply, the treatment of big companies by the UK’s tax collecting authority blows one of the most obvious holes in the rationale behind huge cuts to public services and regressive taxation on the most vulnerable, such as VAT increases. The hardship, suffering and yes, death, being inflicted upon the people of the UK right now is entirely unnecessary and could be avoided if big companies paid their fair share.
Taking on HMRC isn’t simple, of course. UK Uncut Legal Action’s lawyers, Leigh Day & Co, are doing it on a ‘no-win-no-fee’ basis, but if they lose, you can bet they’ll have to pay HMRC’s legal costs. Branding it ‘the people’s court case,’ they are looking for donations. The legal challenge is already raising awareness – imagine the shock waves if it succeeded. The cuts must be opposed in courtrooms as well as on the streets and in ballot boxes.
If you can spare anything at all – or have just received a tax rebate and enjoy irony as much as I do – then please give whatever you can. You can donate here: http://ukuncutlegalaction.org.uk/