Monday, February 28, 2011

Bank of America targeted by US UnCut protests

Activists across the US ­frustrated with state and federal budget cuts ­took to the streets on Saturday Feb 26th to protest corporate tax dodging.

Protests in over 50 cities focused on Bank of America, which paid no taxes in 2009 or 2010, according to their SEC 10-K report filed on Friday.

Local activists protested inside and outside of Bank of America branches, conducting teach-ins about corporate tax avoidance and theatrical "bail-ins." Protests in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco forced the early closure of major bank branches.

The U.S. effort ­called US UNCUT ­has been inspired by a movement in England, called UK UNCUT. English activists have targeted corporations that have paid no or very low corporate income taxes, largely thanks to elaborate use of overseas tax havens and other tax loopholes.

As in England and across the Middle East, the decentralized protest movement is organized largely through the web site, and Facebook, Twitter and meet-up technologies.

The U.S. movement was started two weeks ago when 23-year old Carl Gibson, from Jackson Mississippi, became fed up with state budget cuts. While working 3 part-time jobs, Gibson organized a web site and a local Mississippi UNCUT group. He was galvanized into action by the activities of UK activists.

"There's a direct connection between corporate tax dodging and what's happening to real people¹s lives," said Gibson. "Because of overseas tax havens and other tax loopholes, US corporations are making profits in America but barely paying taxes here. If we close those loopholes, we wouldn't have to be cutting back on firefighters, library hours and student loans."

These protests are putting a spotlight on the shadowy world of overseas corporate tax havens. Irresponsible U.S. corporations shift their earnings around ­ reporting losses in the U.S. while reporting profits in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, where they pay little or no taxes. U.S.
congressional budget officials estimated that over $100 billion a year is lost because of such tax loopholes, enough to eliminate all state budget deficits combined.

Nicholas Shaxson, author of the new book Treasure Islands , writes that tax havens are a major mechanism through which "wealthy and powerful elites take the benefits from society without paying for them."

"Why has the knee-jerk reaction for our politicians been first and foremost budget cuts to critical social services? They tell us that no other options are on the table, yet cracking down on corporate tax avoidance has received little, if any attention," said George Taghi, an organizer for the DC Uncut action.

Protests against corporate tax dodging could be one of the ways that the spark of Wisconsin could spread widely. While not every state has a reckless anti-union governor like Scott Walker or the union solidarity to push back ­every state is facing huge budget cuts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the combined budget gaps in U.S. states is at least $102 billion ­and probably closer to $148 billion.

This is just the beginning. USUNCUT is identifying the next wave of targets for actions that include corporations with high profiles and retail outlets.

A coalition of domestic businesses has spoken out against tax havens. Small and U.S.-rooted businesses are hurt by tax havens because they are forced to compete on an unlevel playing field. Business and Investors Against Tax Haven Abuse , launched last summer, is organizing business voices and has a national petition.

The Tax Justice Network USA is looking forward to hosting author Nicholas Shaxson for the US release of his new book, Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World ­which will come out during the US April 15 "Tax week."


Anonymous Harvey Dosik said...

Letter to MoveOn 3/1/11
Hi Wes,

Email petitions are of doubious value I have heard that they may even be ignored by the receipients. More importantly it is a distraction of our energies. MoveOn would be better off taking a page from Uncut and creating a campaign for actions at local levels against corporations that don't pay taxes let alone their fair share. Picketing and sit ins at BofA branches around the country, demonstrations at GE's HQ, with national advertising, and social media to instigate it with the money coming from MoveOn supporters.
It would put us on offensive and be a shot in the arm to the whole Progressive movement

5:24 pm  
Anonymous Merilyn Jackson said...

I concur with Harvey, Screw petitions. Bodies on the step of these banks and stock brokerages are the only thing that are going to make them pay up. I've been calling for a #marchonwallstreet for months! Are the only brave and smart Americans in Wisconsin?

3:25 pm  

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