This is a guest blog by Mark Williams, a UK Uncut activist.
From its earliest days when the current government introduced its first brutal round of cuts, UK Uncut has been about showing that there is an alternative to the cuts, that the cuts are not necessary. The cuts are a political choice, exercised by a rich, male elite, that benefit the richest and most powerful in our society at the expense of the most marginalised.
Five years on, what we said then has turned out to be true. Today over 8 million people live on less than needed to cover a minimum household budget, while the richest 100 people in the country increased their wealth by over £40 billion in the last year. Austerity is transferring wealth from poor to rich.
The tax system is one of the ways that wealth is supposed to be transferred from the rich to the poor, redistributing the wealth that our economic system concentrates at the top. When companies dodge tax it undermines this redistribution, and leaves less money to fund the public services or welfare this government is now ideologically intent on cutting beyond all recognition.
High street occupations by UK Uncut made tax dodging the issue it is today. Our direct action forced this issue into the public debate. When we started our biggest debate was that since tax avoidance was legal, what’s the problem? Thanks to people across the country taking direct action we won that argument.
At a time of brutal cuts it is not fair that the richest escape without paying their fair share. Politicians across the political spectrum are now tripping over themselves to condemn tax dodging as unfair, immoral, anything to try to answer the public outrage at the injustice of our tax system. But winning the argument didn’t make companies pay their tax. For all the politicians tough talk on tax, there was no real action, just talk.
Today, a group of NGOs including ActionAid, the NUS and War on Want are launching a campaign to see if politicians are just full of hot air or whether they will actually act to tackle tax dodging. The Tax Dodging Bill campaign is calling on all political parties to pledge to pass a law to tackle corporate tax dodging in the UK, and by UK companies in the global south (the global south loses more to corporate tax dodging every year then it receives in aid from rich countries).
The Tax Dodging Bill, if done properly, could take a massive swipe at the tax dodging by some of the biggest tax dodgers in the UK – Starbucks, Google, Amazon, would all get caught by it. It doesn’t claim to fix everything, but would be a massive step in the right direction, and would get billions of pounds more money for public services and welfare. All of us can demand politicians and our local candidates act, we can force them to see if they will live up to their hot air.
Tackling tax dodging won’t end austerity. We still have to fight against an election that’s being debated between cuts and cuts light, but the more we show these alternatives do exist, that cuts are a political choice to let off the richest while targeting the poorest, the harder it is for any party to justify austerity.
You can sign the petition to support the Tax Dodging Bill at taxdodgingbill.org.uk