Posted by Christie Malry on March 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm
In a brief discussion with Twitter blowhard Spitefuel about the Vodafone tax avoidance case, he dismissed the facts of the situation, claiming that it didn't matter because Ukuncut's case was a moral, not a legal one.
I disagree wholeheartedly. It's simply untrue that you can remain disinterested in the facts of individual taxpayers. In each of the cases raised by Ukuncut, there have been very serious errors in their fact-finding, analysis or judgment. You cannot legitimately paper over these cracks by claiming the moral high ground.
- in the case of Sir Philip Green, they are claiming that Lady Green, a non UK resident, must be treated as Sir Philip's property. And therefore that her income should be taxed as if it is his income. Conveniently, this would have increased the amount of tax paid by the Greens to HMRC in 2005, a year in which Arcadia, owned by Lady Green but controlled by Sir Philip, paid a very large dividend.
- in the case of Boots, they are claiming that it's unfair that Boots should get a tax deduction for interest paid on its loans.
- in the case of Barclays, their analysis was just plain stupid. This "evidence" was so flawed that it provided no meaningful support for their hypothesis that Barclays avoids tax (even though, thanks to their own disclosure, we now know that they have sought to reduce their tax bill).
- recently, it has been claimed that companies that move jobs to countries with lower employment costs should be fined. So you get idiotic claims like this (from Google+):
- in the case of Vodafone, it was argued that Vodafone should just accept UK law as written, even if that law appears both to be illegal under European law and leads to double taxation.
Ukuncut also employs some very unorthodox strategies for executing its campaigns. For example, disrupting Saturday shoppers, supergluing themselves to the insides of shop windows, setting up fake hospitals and libraries, trespassing in Fortnum & Mason, and aligning themselves to the ill-fated OccupyLSX movement. Ukuncut likes to take credit for things it didn't do, but denies responsibility for things it fairly clearly did. Most shabby was its ludicrous insistence that the custard pie attack on Rupert Murdoch by a Ukuncut founder was nothing to do with them.
Both the errors of analysis and the methods are justified by its moral purpose. The ends justify both the means and the very campaign itself. But this is self-referential. Over a year after Ukuncut started, it has yet to provide concrete evidence of any of its allegations. At best, it has the hint of wrongdoing. At worst, it has it plain wrong.
So, we have an indifference to facts, an inability to analyse, a refusal to accept criticism, an unwillingness to correct error and a catalogue of disruptive and dangerous antics. This isn't a moral campaign. It's a feral one. And it's time for Ukuncut to get a grip or to get lost.