19 Feb 2011

Barclays targeted by tax protesters

The Chancellor agrees that Barclays bank did not pay enough tax last year, as protesters target more than 40 Barclays branches across Britain.

Protesters gathered in central London with a plan not to shut the banks down but “open them up”, occupy them and transform them into “something people need” such as libraries, childcare centres and even a comedy theatre.

Anger was stoked this morning amongst these protesters by a letter to the Treasury Select from new Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond, revealing new information about the banks’ tax payments.

Barclays paid over £2bn in tax in 2009, but only £113m in corporation tax, much less than the 28p in the pound official rate.

Barclays justified this by pointing to its UK trading losses during the credit crunch. However, it was a fraction of Barclays headline profits of £4.6billion in 2009 and the near-on £12bn profit the bank made from the one-off sale of its fund management business.

Chancellor George Osborne, perhaps surprisingly, agreed today that Barclays did not pay enough tax, speaking to Channel 4 News today from the G20 meeting in Paris, he blamed the Labour Treasury.

Mr Osborne said: “I don’t think British banks were paying enough tax, including Barclays…that’s why I’ve introduced a permanent tax.”

Watch the full interview Osborne at G20: 'Britain was overpriced'

The Chancellor said he was working with G20 finance ministers to implement Britain’s rules on banks’ bonuses across the world.

“We have an international agreement on bonuses, it’s not implemented throughout the world, but we agreed today that it should be,” he said.

Meanwhile, a UK Uncut spokesman said: “We are here today because we are tired of companies ripping off the public and using economies of scale and clever accounting laws to get away with not paying taxes.

“We are tired of us paying into the public sector and seeing our public sector decimated while corporations are effectively getting away with theft.
“It’s legal but immoral.”

He added: “We are hoping to very peacefully and legally send a big message to Barclays that paying 1 per cent corporation tax is not really acceptable.”

The protesters split up into groups, with one of around 50 people walking to the Barclays branch at Piccadilly Circus.

They gathered outside the entrance in the rain, holding banners saying: “People before profits” and chanting “books not bonuses” as they made an impromptu library outside the building.

Activists said they aimed to set up a live comedy show, libraries and a mothers’ breakfast club inside different branches of the bank.

A Barclays spokeswoman today said: “Barclays takes its responsibilities as a corporate citizen very seriously. We comply with taxation laws in the UK and in all the countries where we do business.

“In 2010 the Group paid over £2.8bn in taxes in the UK and £6.1bn globally. We have signed up to the UK Government’s Code of Practice on taxation, which is very clear on the obligations it places on banks to ensure they manage their tax affairs properly.