HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced on 9 December that Dave Hartnett is to retire in the summer of 2012.
It may not come as a surprise to many that the head chief of tax has succumbed to recent pressures to resign over claims of helping big named firms, such as Investment Bank Goldman Sachs and mobile giant Vodafone, to dodge tax. In their response to Dave Hartnett’s retirement, UK Uncut said:
“Dave Hartnett has allowed big business and rich individuals to get away with daylight robbery. We hope that his departure brings a new way of working for HMRC, one which means that big business are not let off millions or billions of pounds owed to the public purse.
“Instead HMRC must clamp down on big business and rich individuals which will bring in billions to the UK and will save the British public from unnecessary cuts to their public services and the welfare state.”
Back in November the anti-cuts direct action group were demanding Hartnett’s resignation from the Revenue. And on the ‘busiest shopping day before Christmas’ they took to the high-street by demonstrating against recent cuts to pensions, benefits and Winter Fuel Allowance.
UK Uncut supporters decided which big high-street brand to target by participating in an online voting poll hosted on UK Uncut’s Facebook page, which saw ‘Vodafone and Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Empire’ come out on top.
On 10 December UK Uncut announced the two biggest contenders on their blog – ‘New poll; it’s now a two-horse race! Who’s your tax-avoiding Christmas Turkey?’ – and a new Facebook page voting poll was opened, which saw Topshop take the crown.
Mobile giant Vodafone was a popular target for UK Uncut supporters because of the controversy in parliament over whether or not the tax deal between HMRC and Vodafone of up to £7bn was in fact illegal.
UK Uncut supporter, Joe Potter, who voted for Vodafone in the online target poll, said:
“Last year Vodafone said that their tax dodge of billions was an urban myth and UK Uncut was wrong. Now we’re seeing a parliamentary committee looking into whether it was an illegal tax dodge, not into whether it happened at all. We were right all along.
“We must take action now to stop the cuts and prevent the devastating impact they will have on ordinary people’s lives.”
It is also thought that the tax dodging claims against Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia group including high street fashion retailers Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, put Topshop at the forefront of the store to be targeted on the 17th.
Sir Philip Green has been accused of dodging tax through channelling millions of pounds through to his wife in the tax haven of Monaco. Supporter of UK Uncut, Sarah Armitage, voted for Topshop in the online poll and has said:
“Sir Philip Green and his wife can afford to jet off to sunny Monaco and take their profits with them, dodging millions in tax. Meanwhile the government does nothing but cuts our benefits and the services that we need. The Government should be getting those millions back rather than cutting my gran’s Winter Fuel Allowance.”
On Saturday 17th December 40 UK uncut supporters staged an ‘flash freeze in’ protest inside Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street, London. The Metropolitain Police were quick to action and the protest lasted inside the flagship store for no longer than ten minutes. After being moved from Topshop UK Uncut supporters then proceeded to Vodafone on Oxford Street, where Police kept them a few yards away from the store. Outside Vodafone the UK Uncut supporters continued their peaceful demonstration against tax dodging and could be seen with several banners and chanting a statement about Vodafone’s alleged tax avoidance: “When UK Uncut first targeted Vodafone we were told that 6 billion was an urban myth. Now we are told that they may have dodged 8 billion, that’s right, 8 billion pounds.”
Kevin Kinsella Jnr, of KinsellaTax, said:
“Tax evasion is illegal, tax avoidance is not. The arguments are now so heated that the line between evasion and avoidance is getting fainter and fainter, which really does not help anyone.”
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