Election comment – by Mike Wallace – Coventry Unison
Much of the government’s (and media) rhetoric targets people on benefits as a focus for the cuts. They label claimants as scroungers who fleece the country of billions to fund ‘extravagant’ lifestyles.
The reality is the tax gap, the amount of tax evaded, avoided and uncollected each year is £120 billion, while the CAB estimates that £16bn in benefits is unclaimed annually, and benefit fraud accounts for £1.2bn, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Tax dodging highlights the tax dealings of a number of high-profile companies:
- Barclays – 120 – the number of offshore tax havens the banking group has based in the Cayman Islands.
- Boots – £1.12bn – amount the pharmacy-led health chain has avoided since relocating its head office to Switzerland in 2007.
- Amazon – £2.4m – amount paid in UK corporate taxes by the online retailer’s UK subsidiary, despite making sales of £4.3bn.
- Starbucks – 1 – Number of years the company reported a taxable profit in 15 years of operating in the UK, despite UK sales of £400m in 2011. It has also paid just £8.6m in corporation tax in its 14 years of trading in the UK, and nothing in the last three years.
- Vodafone – £5bn – sales made by the communications giant in 2012/13 but despite an operating profit of £294m, it has paid no UK corporation tax for the second year in a row and owes HMRC an estimated £1.25bn.
But what are our politicians doing about this major issue?
It’s a disgrace that so many individuals and companies are allowed to get away with this. Politicians, like UKIP leader and MEP, Nigel Farage, have been exposed as having trust funds in offshore tax havens. Small wonder they are keeping quiet! – The truth is our mainstream politicians are far too friendly with corporate business interests.
And what of the silence of the major media organisations such as the BBC and SKY..? – Why do they refuse to challenge politicians on this issue?
UNISON believes the focus should be on increasing funding in HMRC, fighting tax dodgers and closing the tax gap, not victimising the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.