Philip Green luxuriates in Barbados while protestors target his shops
The Observer reports that UK UnCut activists targeted tax avoiding businesses in 55 towns and cities across Britain yesterday. TJN's director, John Christensen (seen below in his ECONOMIC ADVISER jacket), joined the events at TopShop's flagship store on Oxford Street, where despite strong-arm tactics by security guards (with tacit support from aggressive police) the activists went ahead with an entirely peaceful and good-humoured blockade.
Another article in the same paper outlines how UK UnCut, whose activities have spread like wildfire across Britain, is winning the battle of ideas. While company executives stumble in their efforts to justify tax avoidance, "tax efficiency" and "tax competition", the protesters are winning public support for their central message: the austerity measures are entirely a political choice made by an ideological government that wishes to push forward with cuts to public services. Tackling Britain's £120 billion a year tax gap would more than cover the public sector deficit caused by the banking collapse.
The success of this amazing campaign lies in the links being made between complex tax matters and the lives of ordinary people who will suffer from government imposed cuts. At Vodaphone, links were made between their £6 billion tax deal and the closures of libraries and other public facilities throughout Britain. The protests at TopShop made the link between Green's egregious tax scamming and the proposed cuts to school sports facilities. Activists dressed in football kit called on the government to restore sports funding, which will impact the health of future generations, and Nick Christensen, who joined his father at the protests on Oxford Street, is quoted in the Observer saying: "Teachers and pupils should not be made victims because companies avoid paying their taxes."
This quote hits at the heart of the problem. While the tax avoidance industry seeks cover behind weak arguments about their clients acting legally, the activists counter by pointing out that cheating is not strictly illegal in most circumstances, but that doesn't condone the actions of the cheats, and it sure as heck doesn't promote useful competition. Quite the opposite: cheating harms markets and public interest. The fact that successive British governments have condoned tax cheating for decades speaks volumes about whose interests that actually serve.
While some shoppers on Oxford Street yesterday moaned about the inconvenience of not being able to visit TopShop, others praised the blockade and supported the calls for governments to crack down on tax dodging as a matter of priority. Taking tax justice to Britain's high streets on the busiest weekend in the Christmas period couldn't have been more appropriate: if Christ stood for anything it was justice.