Sachs should pay their tax

Great Video by UKUNCUT – Storming a Tax Conference to thank Dave Hartnett for letting big companies off their tax bills.


Comedy aside, this is a very serious issue – A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee accused HMRC of having a ‘far too cosy’ relationship with big firms, which are treated more favorably by HMRC than other taxpayers. HMRC’s own figures suggest that claims the total owned may be £25.5billion. By contrast, families and small businesses are treated much more harshly and forced to pay up.

In total, the report says, HMRC is seeking to resolve more than 2,700 issues with the biggest companies, with a potential tax at stake of £25.5billion. The £25.5billion is HMRC’s own ‘ballpark estimate’ of the maximum potential tax liabilities of big businesses

The sum owed by corporate giants is the equivalent of £1,000 for every British family, or the equivalent of everyone in the UK paying an extra 6p on the basic rate of income tax.

The report singled out HMRC head Dave Hartnett for criticism over his dealings with Goldman. Goldman Sachs had cut its UK tax bill cut in 2010 after a privately negotiated deal with HMRC allowed it to avoid paying interest payments on £30million back taxes it owed.  

So what can the little guy do against this Corportacracy?

One thing UK Uncut are doing is to issue Formal legal proceedings against the Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on Thursday over allegations that it let the investment bank Goldman Sachs off paying up to £20m in outstanding tax.

The application for a judicial review, initiated by the campaign group UK Uncut Legal Action, will be lodged with the administrative court in London. The organisation has called for the government to crack down on tax avoidance by large corporations and the super-rich rather than pursue its “unnecessary austerity programme”.

Tim Street, director of UK Uncut Legal Action said: “There is overwhelming public support from unions, NGOs, MPs and thousands of ordinary people who want to see this dodgy tax deal challenged in the courts.

“It shows the deep level of outrage that people feel over state-sanctioned tax dodging by big business, while government destroys public services that ordinary people rely on, saying that there is no money.”

Street accused the government of “making a political choice to turn a blind eye” to what he views as a wider tax issue that costs the public purse £25bn a year and of “slashing public services and the support for the poorest instead of clamping down”.

If you want to help UKUNCUT in their legal challenge against Goldman Sachs – you can donate here


Tax the rich and avoid public spending cuts – yes, it really is that simple

So for those of you who witnessed a fashion show spectacle in Top Shop, Boots or any of the other large Corporate tax dodging companies in your  local ‘mall’ this morning – the purpose was to raise awareness about the tax gap – and in particular the large amount of tax dodged by some of our best known corporations.

You may have seen some bold headlines/ leaflets displaying just how much tax is lost in the UK every year – an annual total of up to £120 billion – Just to prove we’re not making this up – here are a few sources for those of you who wish to research this in more depth.

Firstly, this is a nice article from the Guardian explaining the ‘tax gap’. The tax gap is the difference between collected tax and the potential total tax out there. The gap is caused by tax avoidance, evasion, black markets, errors and lack of “reasonable care” when filling in tax returns. Currently, the lowest estimate puts the figure at £42bn a year: the highest around £120bn. Either way, even if 10% of this amount was recovered, it would significantly reduce the necessity of wholesale cuts to government.

Secondly, this Article from The Metro outlining how Britain loses £18 billion a year because of companies being registered in Tax Havens. The multinationals listed on the FTSE 100 have a total of 32,216 subsidiary companies between them, with one in four based in tax havens

Obviously UK Uncut s a good ‘hub source’ – currently focussing on Corporate tax dodgers – cut (is that a pun?) from its web site

There’s a selection box of high street stores, hoping for huge sales this Christmas, who’ve been very bad. This year Vodafone paid a £6bn dividend to its shareholders, whilst still refusing to pay us the £6bn tax it owes us. Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfriges are all part of Sir Philip Green’s fashion empire Arcadia, but whilst they sell Christmas presents on our high streets, the profits go to Monaco. Boots dodged another year of tax by keeping their headquarters registered to a post box in Switzerland. And then there’s the big banks. Not only do banks like Barclays continue to receive huge taxpayer subsidies, but they also use tax havens to avoid paying their fair share back to society.

NB – The real message we want to get accross is that if we collected all this tax, we wouldn’t need to cut spending on public services!

Are the Muppets really lighting the lights?

The Muppets latest movie features an evil oil tycoon called ‘Tex Richman’ who wants to extract oil from under the Muppets’ old theatre…. The general plot line and name of the character were enough to lead the anchor man of Fox Business, Eric Bolling, to suggest that the movie is promoting an anti-capitalist agenda.,,,, He asked guest Dan Gainor whether the movie was liberal propaganda. ‘This oil muppet, evil man that he is, is called Tex Richman,’ Mr Bolling said. ‘It’s amazing how low the left will go just to stoop to give your kids the anti-corporate message,’ Mr Gainor replied. Later in the segment Mr Bolling asks: ‘Is liberal Hollywood using class warfare to brainwash our kids?’

Given that this is a mainstream movie, and given that it’s a Disney Movie – and given that the evil, powerful, villain is a standard in move plot lines, it’s reasonably obvious that this isn’t a sinister socialist attack on Capitalist values – in fact I imagine the plot line will work out with all the muppets being unharmed and justice being done – which is actually far, far removed from the relaity of oil exploration and extration as evidenced in the Niger Delta, the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Tar Sands of Albterta Canada!

It also goes to show just how paranoid the right are becoming over maintaining their advantage in the war of position – this latest attack on our brother muppets is simply laughable.

On a positive note, this does give me a good option for the end of term movie this summer when it’ll be time to play the music (of the fourth international), and time to light the lights (of the glorious communist revolution)… and time to meet the muppets and subtly indoctrinate my students into leftist values…

A brief explanation of how banks have you by the balls…


Nice analogy of ‘basic banking’ as this is – it’s just a shame that the more esoteric elements of the unreal world of banking can’t be fleshed out in such a straightforward analogy – balls after all are real objects, money isn’t – and banks create more of it out of thin air, lend it to people, charging them interest, and thereby make more of it for themselves —- any ideas how you turn that into an easily understandable analogy?

Obviously the fact that it’s not so easy to convert that idea, let alone hedge funds and credit default swaps, into easy-to-understand analogies that led us to the economic mess we’re in at the moment, amongst other things of course.

Oh and ss with so many outstanding resources – the source of the lovely cartoon was from a friend at work, whose ‘hippy friend’ had posted it on Facebook – It just had to be shared…

Changes to child maintenance policy adds insult to injury to victims of domestic violence

Shocking strap line from a recent Guardian article - worth passing on! Broad support for the radical feminist view that the government isn’t really interested in putting up money to actually support victims of domestic violence – also relevant also a nice case study below to remind you how domestic violence victims who have had children with an abusive partner may well end up remaining a victim of abuse even after leaving said partner – Just to summarise briefly from this grim article –

NB – Child Maintenance is what the absent parent pays the ‘primary care’ parent towards the cost of child care.

The proposed policy changes

The idea is to change the policy surrouding what happens when one ‘absent parent’ refuses to pay… it’s proposed that the government now charge the resident parent for chasing the absent one for money: £100 if you’re in work, £50 if you’re on benefits.

This sum could be paid repeatedly: if the non-resident parent stopped paying for any reason, such as changing jobs or changing bank accounts. This happens all the time; the kind of parent who can’t make an amicable agreement and has to be chased by the CSA will often cease maintenance if they find out their ex has done something frivolous, like bought shoes, and the whole process has to start all over again.

Problems with the proposed changes

50% of lone parents exist below the poverty line (50%) and £50 is a lot of money for someone in that situation to find (probably meaning a choice between eating or having gas and electricity for a week).

It is proposed that lone parents who were the victims of domestic violence. are to have their upfront fee waived, but they would still have to pay a percentage – 12% is on the table – of their maintenance payments back to the government.

The idea behind the policy is to encourage parents who have split to sort out privately who pays what for the children, rather than relying on the CSA – the problem is of course, that victims of DV are not exactly in a position to do this are they! As the article goes on to say…

Women are at more risk from a violent partner when they’ve split up from him. Plus, it’s quite rare to find an abuser with a completely normal, equitable relationship with money.

As on DV victim points out “They’ll try to buy you back after the abuse, so they’ll suddenly be showering you with luxury items. Or they’ll try to buy the kids, to turn them against you.”

Another adds, “One year, my ex arrived, and said ‘I’ll take you out and buy presents, but only if Mam comes.’ So I had to go, and he bought everything. Toy Story had just come out, he bought everything you can imagine. Then, a month before Christmas, he turned up on the doorstep and said he wanted everything back.”

So here is another, very bleak example of how some of the most vulnerable women could bear the costs of the public sector cuts in coming years.

So for the sake of the victims of domestic viollence – We’ve got to get these Patriarchal Tory Millionnaires out!

NB – This is also a pretty good case for not having kids.

Want to be happy – then start with rejecting everything you’ve learnt about how to achieve it…

In honour of Buddha’s Enlightenment day – a quick post on how the Buddhist view of how we should ‘realise’ happiness appears to be the antithesis of how most of us in the west typically go about trying to ‘achieve’ happiness.

The Buddhist Path to Happiness

The key to happiness in Buddhism is to follow something called the noble eightfold path – and this essentially boils down to the following eight principles – this isn’t a full interpretation of what’s involved in following Buddhism but these are some of its core principles – (the tenets as named in the path are in brackets)

  1. Knowing yourself and your ‘true nature’ (‘right understanding’)
  2. Developing compassion (‘right thought’)
  3. Residing in the truth (‘right speech’)
  4. Renouncing material goods (‘right action’ – NB there is a lot more to this, but this is key!)
  5. Doing worthwhile and ethical work (‘right livelihood’)
  6. Leading a disciplined, routine life (‘right effort’)
  7. Being aware of what you are doing and not being carried away by passionate emotions (‘right concentration’)
  8. Meditating (‘right meditation’)

It’s worth noting that these tenets (which aren’t that dissimilar to most other mainstream religious ethical codes) argue that self-constraint and thinking of the social consequences of one’s actions are as important as ‘taking care’ of your ‘self’. It is further worth noting that all of this links into a certain view of the nature of self and reality – there is logic behind what we should do to be happy and what the nature of the self really is – but I’m not going into that here (it’ll take too long)

The Buddhist view of happiness compared to the Western view of happiness

It is striking how the means whereby so many of us are encouraged to achieve happiness in the West is the complete antithesis of how to achieve happiness (defined more accurately as peace of mind) in Buddhism – to contrast to the 8 fold path above – it is not unusual to see people suggesting that one does any number of the following to be happy –

  1. Constructing and expressing your self – i.e. your self-identity – through consuming products, constructing a narrative of the self on Facebook, and our obsession with biography and celebrity all suggests we see this as crucial to happiness
  2. Putting yourself, or at least your family first and acting out of self-interest – rather than devoting yourself to the service of others (ok so a lot of people give to charity, but this is after one’s sorted oneself out)
  3. Acting/ concealing aspects of the truth or just downright lying  – ok I’ll admit that lying is generally frowned upon, but our obsession with privacy maybe suggests we like to conceal the fullness of ourselves from the world – and isn’t acting out social roles really just lying about who we really rather than being fully open and honest?
  4. Accumulating stuff and attaching yourself to particular people and values – this is obvious – and it includes our obsession with romantic love and children.
  5. Doing a job primarily for the money rather than the social good – ok once again there are plenty of people who choose to do socially useful jobs, but many who see work as just a means to an end.  
  6. Being free to pick and choose, being freedom from routine, trying new things, striving to constantly reinvent yourself – this speaks for itself
  7. When at work – switching off – again – this should ring true with many
  8. Always doing rather than sitting still – one of my pet hates – we tend to think the happiest people are the busiest – not necessarily true.

So According to Buddhism, being truly happy may well involve rejecting most, if not all, of the values of our modern neoliberalised culture…. go on, do it, give it up, let it go – see if you can chillax without the flash…

Sandwich boards – In Vogue!

So I was just doing some surfing – looking up prices of Sandwich boards – (Honestly,  I’m organising a golf sale) and I came across this picture – from a few years back when a judge ordered this shoplifter to wear this sign

Anyway, I got to wondering what might be an appropriate slogan for the reverse?

1. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because Walmart’s yearly revenue is nearly half a trillion dollars

2.  Because 30 years of neoliberal rule has made me poor and desperate

3. This is nothing compared to the social harms meted out on society by Walmart

I’d welcome further suggestions…

‘Honour’ Killings and ‘Honour’ crime on the increase

Reflecting on these may make you a bit less sympathetic to to the moral relitivism of Postmodernism – and a bit more sympathetic with the idea that Feminism might just still be relevant in today’s society after all.

Honour killings typically involve a family killing daughters who ‘dishonour’ the family name – namely through having boyfriends they don’t approve or, or through failing to marry (typically arranged) a partner the family approves of.

In a recent high profile quadruple honour killing in Canada - in which Mohammad Shafia, his second wife and their 20-year-old son are being tried for  four murders – of Mohammad’s first wife and three daughters.

Following a wiretap, Mohammed was was recorded voicing his disgust with his “treacherous” daughters and saying he would kill them again even if they came back to life a hundred times…… “Even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad,” he says in the recordings, calling his daughters “whores” for having boyfriends.

But it’s not just Honour killings that are the problem – For obvious reasons, families may not be prepared to kill dishonourable daughters – instead they just beat and imprison them and subject them to emotional abuse (which I guess happens automatically if you’re being beaten and abused?!) – as the following case study indicates –

Maya’s story

When I was 16 my mum came into my room one day and said I had to get married to my cousin in Pakistan. I was horrified: I wanted to go to college and get a job, and I didn’t even know him, how could I marry him? But when I said no, my mum slapped me across the face. After that I wasn’t allowed out. My family treated me with disgust, as if I had shamed them. My father, mother, even my young brother, beat me on a daily basis. My body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t given any food for days on end, and I tried to take an overdose on several occasions. I just used to sit on my bed from morning to night. Prison would have been a better place.

 Honour crimes are much more widespread in the UK than you might think –

Thanks to an FOI request from The Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights Organisation (IKWRO) – we now know that there were almost 3000 honour crimes in the UK last year – recorded by the police – but the data only comes from 39 out of 52 police forces, the other 13 either failing to collect or provide data on honour crimes.

Such cases include such things as threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder. To add to these shocking findings – based on the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

IKWRO makes the case that the increase is due to the fact that more women are resisting the demands made on them by their families –

This example illustrates a lot of Sociological themes –

It’s a good example of the relevance of Feminism – without this Feminist organisation we wouldn’t have this information available too us – obviously the media pick up on honour killings, but much less so with honour crimes.

Secondly, a good e.g. of a crime that, even with police recorded crime, remains hidden – IKWRO estimate that the actual number of honour crimes may be 4 times higher.

There is also a global dimension to this – many of these honour crimes are done when girls resist demands to go abroad to marry cousins or family aquaintences, and of course there is the obvious culture clash between the patriarchal states of Iran, Kurdistan, and also Pakistan (also strongly associated with honour killings) – in that in these states this kid of daughter abuse is not illegal.

A final dimension is that the increase in honour crimes may be an indiciation of increasing liberation of Asian and Middle Eastern women – at least those living in diaspora communities – as the increase in recorded crime occurs not only because they are prepared to resist their parents unreasonable wishes but also because they feel more confident in coming forwards…

So I guess that’s a positive note to end on, oddly?

JRF’s Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion – shows a growing crisis of underemployment in the UK

Always worthe keeping an eye on – and publicising – the latest report on poverty and social exlusion just recently published by the Jospeph Rowntree Foundation  

There’s a year’s lag in the data of course – so this report examines the situation left to the current government by the last Labour government, and includes the initial effects of the recession following the 2008 financial collapse caused by the feckless irresponsibility of the Transnational Capitalist Class and the weak (some would say bought) democratic institutions that failed to regulate them.

You can read the full summary and report for free at the above link, but one thing I took from the study is the huge number of people who are ‘in work’ and suffering from relative poverty – As noted in the summary

‘By mid-2011, six million people were unemployed, lacking but wanting work or working part-time because no full time job was available. This was 2 million higher than in 2004.’

The end result of this is that 57% of children in poverty live in working households – so under late Capitalism even working is not enough to ensure a decent standard of living….

I see this as a hugely important hidden dimension of the ‘legitimation crisis’ of late Capitalism – the system is systematically failing to sufficient work for people – which results in the gradually increasing immiseration of ordinaray working people.

Yet another indicator of how Capitalism simply isn’t working for millions of people in the UK…