Friday, June 13, 2014

Tax justice tour with ActionAid

Do this tour for yourself!!!!

Just before the World Cup fever completely takes over every aspect of life, my wife and I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours walking around Mayfair with some very cool people who are all supporting ActionAid in their campaign for Tax Justice.

Tax evasion and avoidance are issues which affect virtually every country in the world. Even in the UK celebrities like Jimmy Car and Gary Barlow have taken advantage of the myriad of complex schemes available to legally avoid paying the pull tax due. At the same time there are massive cuts to public services going on, people are relying on foodbanks, the NHS is being cut. Can you see the link?

But it’s an even bigger issue elsewhere in the world, where some big companies are taking advantage of tax havens, shell companies and all sorts of other shady dealings to deny some of the poorest countries in the world money which they are owed. It’s money which could transform these societies.

There were around 10 stops on the tour, taking in some of the wealthiest, most lavish (and frankly most repulsive) parts of London. I counted three yacht shops, which shockingly are exactly what you would think, but lost count of the number of Ferraris and Porches in the street (and homeless people for that matter!).

It is possible that people who avoid tax spend money which should be used for societal good at places like this. I wouldn't be seen dead here.
We started at Barclays (BOOO!) who are encouraging companies to take advantage of Mauritius as a tax haven. Interestingly the branch was next door to a Boots, who have had their own issues with tax return forms recently. Interestingly throughout the whole evening we never heard stories of people on the Minimum Wage avoiding tax, but then we are all in this together aren't we.

I won’t give too much away on the rest of the tour, because you should on it yourself! But I will say that I was shocked how much tax is being avoided, how many of the FTSE 100 companies are at it and what lengths they will go to in order to dodge the tax that rightfully belongs to citizens around the world. We heard about Ghana and Zambia where ActionAid and their friends are doing great work, but many other countries are entangled.

While there wasn’t any suggestion that anyone is doing anything illegal, that doesn’t mean that tax avoidance isn’t pretty ugly and those who are doing it are morally bankrupt (if financially boosted!). As for those mercenaries who work for companies helping all of this happen, I wonder how they sleep at night.

It wasn’t all downbeat, by the end we were hearing of real progress being made by ActionAid. It just goes to show that when god people come together they can triumph over the collective evil which the world throws at them. If you haven’t ever been to Mayfair before, or even if you have but didn’t know that some of the people who operate there have pretty loose morals, then this is a tour you can’t afford to miss.

This issue really is a no-brainer. You don't have to be a socialist to think it's wrong, you just have to have a heart and think that every country should get the tax it is due from companies and individuals. 

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