24 Oct 2011

Police and protesters clash at HMRC tax demo

As police and protesters clash during a demonstration in London against corporate tax avoidance, campaigners tell Channel 4 News people have “had enough of dodgy deals with super-rich corporations”.

Dozens of protesters marched from St Paul’s Cathedral, where anti-capitalist campaigners have set up camp, to the head office of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Whitehall.

When they arrived at HMRC there were minor scuffles as a handful of campaigners tried to break through a police line – no one was injured.

Campaigners from UK Uncut claim that Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs, cleared the way for Vodafone and Goldman Sachs to legally avoid paying part of their tax bills totalling up to £6bn and £10m respectively. These allegations are strongly denied by HMRC and Vodafone.

Dave Hartnett has previously been questioned by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee about HMRC’s tax dealings with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs.

Photo gallery: The anti-capitalism protests outside London's St Paul's Cathedral
A protester holding a placard referring to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) boss Dave Hartnett, takes part in a demonstration against corporate tax avoidance in London (Getty)

Public confidence ‘undermined’

Tim Matthews from UK Uncut told Channel 4 News that Mr Hartnett must resign: “He’s not done anything illegal and that’s the problem.

“The system has to change and he’s a symptom of the system – it’s gone out of kilter, it’s wrong.

“He needs to go and then the tax system needs reformed so that big business and rich individuals can’t get away with not paying their fair share of tax.”

Occupy London supporter Kyshia Davey said: “HMRC has just announced it will be going after 146,000 pensioners to demand hundreds of pounds from them following a tax code cock-up.

“Meanwhile, its boss is striking secret deals with opulent corporations to let them off billions of pounds in tax. Hartnett is fatally undermining public confidence in the UK’s tax system at a time of austerity and he must resign immediately.”

We do not do ‘sweetheart deals’ with anyone, focussing our attention on those corporate businesses that abuse the rules. HMRC spokesman

A spokesman for HMRC strongly refuted the allegations made by UK Uncut: “Today’s demonstration was based on a serious misunderstanding about how HMRC polices corporate businesses.

“We do not do ‘sweetheart deals’ with anyone, focussing our attention on those corporate businesses that abuse the rules.

“This work brought in an additional £9bn for the UK last year, underlining the reality that HMRC is very effectively taxing this key sector of the economy.”

A spokesman for Vodafone told Channel 4 News: “We pay all tax that is due in all of the countries in which we operate, including the UK.

“It’s just not true we owe the amount UK Uncut claim. Vodafone contributes hugely to the UK economy and our performance is key to the success of a large number of UK pension funds.”

Channel 4 News asked Goldman Sachs to respond to the allegations but the company refused to comment.