I read this article in the Guardian and I believe people are waking up to the more than favourable economic terms given to certain corporate businesses by politicians in the UK. This is denying the UK of much needed income, as well as acting like a parasite, sucking all the capital out the UK economy and hoarding that abroad. The fraudulent tax regime also allow businesses to survive that technically shouldn’t. If they don’t make a profit but in turn put out local and national businesses that can’t compete on cost because they have a realistic business model, this should not be encouraged by our supposed leaders.
The system is broke and we are starting to see this through the cracks that are appearing more often and to a greater degree. If people want change it must be sought and fought for otherwise expect to live in chains for the rest of your life, a dire predicament but are all these laws really for the benefit of us or to control us?
The article in full:
On the edge of Rugeley stands Amazon’s largest distribution centre in Britain. Life for the workers who trudge around the 800,000 sq ft warehouse is not as bad as it was for the men who once worked in the pits of the Staffordshire coalfield, but that is not saying much. They must carry satnavs, which direct their movements round the stacks and flash warnings from managers to stop dawdling or chatting with colleagues. Britain being the way it is, they have no job security.
Trade unionists call the Amazon shed a “slave camp”. But whatever arguments they have with Amazon’s management, one point should be beyond dispute – Rugeley is in Britain. British customers send Amazon their money. British workers package their goods and send them off in vans along roads built and maintained by the British taxpayer. If workers steal – and before they can go home or visit the canteen, they must walk through airport-style security scanners to prove they have not – Amazon will call on the taxpayer-funded police to arrest them and the taxpayer-funded criminal justice system to prosecute them. Admittedly, Amazon’s buyers who supply the stock are based in Slough rather than Rugeley. But the last time I looked Slough was in Britain too.
Amazon.co.uk is a UK company. It has to be. An online retailer cannot relocate offshore. It needs local distribution centres to service local markets, otherwise the costs of moving its stock would be ruinously expensive.
Yet Amazon pays just £3.2m tax on sales of £4.2bn because the Revenue allows it to get away with arguing that it should be taxed in Luxembourg. The same lack of connection between corporate tax status and commercial reality applies to Starbucks, Google, Vodafone, Goldman Sachs and every other company the British state allows to dodge tax.
The traditional defence that companies just take advantage of legal loopholes and you would “do the same in their position” falls apart in a country where the tax regime defies the evidence of our eyes. Leaving all other considerations aside, you will never be “in their position”.
If you want to understand any society, look at its tax system. If one man or a clique can tax at will, you can conclude the society is a dictatorship or oligarchy. If you have reasonably progressive and universal taxes, you can assume it is a modern democracy. Britain has elements of democratic taxation. The same rules on occasion apply to everyone. But other parts of the system resemble the ancien régime of pre-revolutionary France. Only in our case the privileged estates the government exempts from taxation are the corporations rather than the aristocracy and the church.
For a generation, politicians have extended exemptions by selling Britain as a country where big businesses would be lightly taxed. When I put it like this, I make the policy sound too cool and rational. The process was far more emotional than that. Tycoons enchanted politicians. They convinced them that their interest and the national interest were as one. So deep was the ideological capture of the top of the British state that corporations have not on the whole had to corrupt ministers.
No one has accused Gordon Brown of taking bribes, to quote the most egregious example. But in his abject period as chancellor, Brown ensured that his friends in private equity were taxed at a lower rate than their cleaners. One might have thought that the crash of 2008 would have discredited the notion that all will be well if we let capitalism run riot. Not a bit of it. George Osborne invites multinationals to advise him on how to tax multinationals. At their behest, he allows companies to move money to tax havens and then deducts the costs of their shady transactions from their British tax liabilities. The result of two decades of special treatment for vested interests can be summarised in one statistic. Between 1999 and 2011, British companies’ profits increased by 58% but revenues from corporation tax increased by just 5%.
To understand the scale of the avoidance, it is not enough to look at the permissive laws, however. Richard Brooks’s The Great Tax Robbery is close to being this year’s indispensable book because, as a former tax inspector turned Private Eye journalist, he has the material to show how the wealthy are exempt from what few laws apply to them.
“Dear Saddam,” ran a spoof letter doing the rounds of the Revenue in the run-up to the Iraq war, “we are trialling a new weapons inspection regime modelled on the Inland Revenue’s approach to large corporate taxation. All you have to do is tell us you don’t have any and we’ll go away.”
One inspector said in his bitter farewell speech that he once thought that the Revenue’s advertising slogan “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” was a bad pun. “Now I realise that for big business it meant what was said on the tin.”
British politicians and a series of negligent and doltish managers ordered the Revenue to back away from big business. In his justifiably notorious speech to the Confederation of British Industry in 2005, everyone remembers Gordon Brown promising “light-touch” regulation for a financial services industry that was already careering towards bankruptcy. We forget that he went on to say that he would apply a light touch to “the administration of tax” for big business as well.
The Revenue itself promises corporations that, rather than doing its job and collecting monies owed, it will follow a “customer-focused supportive and enabling approach”. Or as Dave Hartnett, the former permanent secretary for tax, who cut sweetheart deals with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, explained it in 2010, Britain had a “non-confrontational” approach.
I have written before that the willingness of New Labour, the Tories and the Revenue’s senior managers to pursue the working and middle classes while exempting powerful corporations would turn the British into Italians. We would start to believe that tax evasion was respectable. We would view a state that hit the ordinary man and woman while sparing big business as immoral and illegitimate. That moment is drawing closer. The old complaint that there is one law for the rich and another for the rest does not do justice to the debasement of public authority in Britain. When it comes to tax, too often there is no law for the rich whatsoever.