Blimey! I thought, that’s a little mean considering the recent reports of tax avoidance using off-shore shenanigans to deny the good old HRMC from filling it’s coffers – Nah, I had mis-read the headline in the Sunday Sport I realised that ‘Tax Dogging’ wasn’t the call to send shivers through the car park creepers of England’s green and pleasant land it was of course Tax Dodging by some of the biggest names in retail on the high street and online.
UK Tax Dodgers On-Line and On the High Street
In these jolly times of austerity and spending cuts you would think that there would be strong decisive policies being made and brought into play to address the lack of UK taxes being paid by many of the biggest brands trading in the UK who merrily ring their tills to stash the cash of UK shoppers. Imagine my suprise to discover that Boots the Chemist – a one time Great British family firm that began in Nottingham – has joined the likes of Tesco, Amazon, Google and Starbucks to use loopholes and clever legal yet none-the-less slippery tricks to avoid paying tax in the UK where they trade.
I wondered if Boots can be found online whilst searching for Tax Dodgers – so far it appears not but as the cuts deepen the great British public may fall out with Boots and these other massive tax avoiding dodgers.
Nothing is certain but death and taxes…….
In what happened to be pure coincidence the Muncher has beeen offered the following guest post from Sam Wright who is a freelance writer who is absolutely scrupelous in the payment of all his taxes.
Sam begins: I’m writing this in November while my still-not-quite-completed tax return is glaring at me accusingly. Nobody likes doing their taxes, it’s a load of work which ends with you having to give money away. No amount of hospitals, schools, roads, policemen and other essential infrastructure will make you feel any better about it either.
The thing is, while we hate paying tax, there’s one thing we hate more: Companies which make more money than you’re actually capable of imagining avoiding paying their tax. So if it turns out that someone hasn’t been paying their fair share, the PR situation afterwards can get ugly…
Starbucks Attempts to Clear it All Up
When it was revealed that Starbucks UK had been telling Inland Revenue that was running at a loss, while telling investors it was making a profit, people were rightly irked by the omnipresent coffee chain. The company brought in £398 million in sales in 2011, while paying only £8.6 million over a period of 14 years. The company, sensing that this wasn’t making them many fans, released a statement explaining how everything was cool.
They won customers round with brilliant arguments like “over the last three years we have paid over £160 million in various taxes including National Insurance contribution for our 8,500 UK employees, and business rates”, apparently in the belief that nobody would get pissed off with Starbucks for trying to count its employees’ tax contributions as their own (the original draft of the statement actually included employees’ PAYE as the company’s own tax contributions). They also argued that “We contribute to Britain by buying local products such as cakes, milk, sandwiches and using local suppliers to do things like store design and renovation.” Because apparently Starbucks can’t tell the difference between “contributing” and “trading money for goods and services”.
Then they made one slightly foolish mistake. They left the comments open. What happened next can be best described as a “fricking pile-on”.
The site now boasts comments like “Blah blah lie. Blah blah NATIONAL FRIKKIN INSURANCE??? (after you deleted PAYE). Blah blah excuses and lies. Your coffee tastes like mud. Everything you sell is overpriced. Your ‘brand’ is worthless and everyone wishes you’d just pay what you owe then disappear into nothing. Stop lying and trying to get out of it, pay your bloody taxes and eff off.”
Or “You are leeches. I will never use Starbucks again.”
They should probably start paying some tax…
Amazon’s Competitors Make Paying Tax A Selling-Point
Like Starbucks, Amazon has been accused of diverting its profits to tax havens to avoid paying any money in the UK. Amazon released another say-nothing statement, much like Starbucks but without the unbearable smugness.
Still, Amazon was in for its own kicking courtesy of the Bookseller’s Association. The BA put together a series of posters with slogans such as “CAN PAY, DO PAY! WE PAY OUR TAXES”
and “YOUR MONEY, YOUR BOOKSHOP, YOUR COMMUNITY. We pay our taxes!”
Amazon is reportedly responding by powering up the Death Star it bought with all those unpaid taxes.
Vodafone Makes People Smile
Amazon and Starbucks are both pretty new to getting caught out on all the tax they don’t pay. But Vodafone got caught out all the way back in 2010. The company was allegedly dodging £6 billion in owed tax.
Meanwhile, Vodafone decided to launch this delightful ad campaign. Warning, in this context “delightful” actually means “making you want to vomit”. To tie in with it they launched the wonderful little hashtag #mademesmile, hoping to raise some brand awareness by getting people to talk about cheering things while subconsciously associating them with Vodaphone.
First UK Uncut tweeted @UKuncut: Hey everyone @VodafoneUK are giving away prizes for the best tweets with hashtag #makesmesmile. Anyone have any good ones?”
@SheamusSweeney tweeted: “Haha #mademesmile Someone who was googling their local Vodafone shop and saw the anti-tax dodging tweets is now going to Carphone Warehouse.”
Basically one of the first bits of advice someone working in PR can give their clients, whether they’re a veteran or in their first PR graduate jobs, is “Just pay your tax, okay?”
Sam Wright is a freelance writer who is absolutely scrupelous in the payment of all his taxes.