This article originally appeared on the Tax Dodgers Database, March 1st 2013.
So, here begins my (and hopefully our) first tentative baby steps into the big bad world of corporate tax avoidance. As most people do, I’m approaching this subject with barely a clue of the brain numbing complexity that masquerades as a fair taxation system here in the UK.
Still, over the next month or so I’ll be risking my reputation, my degree and most probably my sanity in a quest to name and shame the worst of the UK’s corporate tax dodgers. I most definitely expect to face legal action at some point.
Those in the know would probably call me a ‘Tax prat’. Though I have worked as a paper pusher in a tax office before, but as a 16 year old Geordie obsessed with English literature and Karl Marx, let’s just say that I didn’t really learn too much from my time with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
I could still now, five years later, tell you the difference between a P45 and a P60, but I guess that in the current economic gloom, people are sick of seeing and hearing about their P45’s. And I suppose therein lies the main reason for me kicking this project into action. We’re living through dark times out here in the – previously swashbuckling – western world. Where there was once free credit and endless job opportunities there are now savage cuts and mass unemployment. Here in the UK, my generation are the first since the war to be worse off than our parents.
For what reason? Because we need to balance the country’s books. We’ve (well, technically, our parents have) overspent, over-lived and gone so far beyond our means that even Icarus himself would have told us to stop years before the big crash of ’08. Our national debt stands at £1,114 billion, that’s over 70% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (what the economy produces each year).
And you can’t help but get the feeling that it’s all rather unfair. Those on lower to middle incomes are the ones baring the brunt of the Tory government’s relentless austerity programme (cuts to welfare, free healthcare and housing benefits), whilst those at the top of the economic ladder – who initiated the toxic banking culture that started it all in the first place – seem to be enjoying life more than ever.
So why should it be that David pays for Goliath’s ill deeds? Well, we’ll leave that one for another day. I’m sure you already have your own answer – littered with unfavourable expletives – prepared for it anyways. All I’ll tell you for now is that it needn’t be this way. Rather than allowing the government to vilify benefits claimants and those at the bottom of our society, we can encourage them to get onto the backs of multi national companies who use their vast resources to avoid paying tax that is much needed here in the UK. Think of it this way – if we closed the ‘tax gap’ (how much tax the UK treasury should receive, but doesn’t due to avoidance) by forcing everyone to pay their fair share of tax, we’d wipe off 75% of our national deficit. The cuts to welfare that the Conservatives revealed last year amount to just 1% of the deficit.
Clamping down on corporate tax avoidance is a viable alternative to austerity. But what we must do first is understand the complex world of the tax dodgers. And to do that, I’m going to have to make this dark and innately dull world interesting, otherwise I doubt anybody will care. So stay tuned over the coming weeks, for behind the corporate suits and ridiculous terminology there most certainly hides blood, murder and scandal – all set to be revealed on the Tax Dodgers Database.
Image courtesy of Dominic’s pics