Guest post: A modest proposal for Philip Green and the defenders of tax-dodging


This is a guest post by Johann Hari, who is a columnist for The Independent newspaper. You can follow Johann at www.twitter.com/johannhari101 and read more of his articles at www.johannhari.com

You would be sent to prison if you claimed all your British wages ‘really’ belonged to your wife in a foreign tax haven and refused to pay any tax on it. But not Philip Green. You would be sent to prison if you claimed a massive chunk of your income ran through a post office box in Luxembourg and refused to pay any tax on it. But not Vodafone.

UK Uncut is standing up for the 99.99 percent of British people who pay our taxes – and are disgusted to see that super-rich billionaires don’t. They are being allowed to pay nothing, by both the Tories and before them New Labour.

The new government claims our national debt requires a massive program of cuts. In reality, our national debt has been higher for almost all of our history since 1750. But even if the debt was a reason to panic, almost all the savings they claim are necessary can be found simply from making the super-rich pay the £25bn in taxes they legally owe and are currently dodging. Instead, David Cameron and his tax-dodging chancellor George Osborne are choosing to make you pay – even though you did nothing to cause this crisis.

We are the overwhelming majority. Some 77 percent of us want to crack down on tax dodging hard. Let the politicians who sneer at this campaign – from Labour’s Tom Harris MP to the Tory Tim Montgomerie – make their case. They will be loathed by their constituents for siding with Philip Green and Vodafone and the army of tax-dodgers over their own electorate. Let’s amplify their voices: people should know who is letting this happen, and how feeble their excuses are.

But for now, let’s just deal with one of the arguments the defenders of tax-dodging offer. Philip Green works hard, shows entrepreneurial flair, and earns his money by himself, they say, so what right do we have to ask him to pay money to us?

I’d like, for one year, in one branch of Top Shop, to test that idea. It’s a simple experiment. For twelve months, we’ll deny any publicly funded services to that store. When the rubbish piles up, we won’t send bin-men to collect it. When the rat outbreak begins, we won’t send pest control. When they catch a shoplifter, we won’t send the police. When there’s a fire, we won’t send the fire brigade. When the suppliers want to get their goods to the store, there may be a problem: we won’t maintain the roads any more. When the staff get sick, we won’t treat them in the NHS. When you interview for new staff, you’ll find they can’t read, because you can only choose people who have not received any state education.

Then come back to us after that year, Philip Green, and tell us you do it all yourself, and don’t owe anything to us. Taxes are the membership dues for a civilised society – and we’re going to make you pay.

You can become part of the movement to make tax-dodgers pay, and so stop the cuts. We are having a mass day of action this Saturday. Don’t worry if you’ve never been to a protest before: it’s fun and safe and there’s lots of people who’ve never come along before. You can find the nearest protest to you here. See you there!