Archive for December, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: UK Uncut Legal Action issue legal proceedings against HMRC

  • UK Uncut Legal Action will issue legal proceedings against HMRC with a Photo Op at 15:30pm today. 
  • Campaign group goes for a full quashing of the tax agreement 
  • Support for the case voiced by leading Trade Unions, NGOs and MPs
  • £14,000 has been raised for the case in two weeks showing huge level of public support.
Adding to the parliamentary pressure on HMRC this week from the Public Accounts Committee, UK Uncut Legal Action, an NGO inspired by the anti-cuts direct action group UK Uncut will issue proceedings in the High Court today against HMRC, over the Goldman Sachs tax deal.
The campaigning group made the decision to go forward with the case after receiving what they term a ‘dismissive’ response from HMRC to letters from their lawyers demanding the alleged sweetheart deal agreed between David Hartnett and Goldman Sachs is quashed.

UK Uncut Legal Action have welcomed scrutiny into tax deals from both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee reports but claim the legal action they are taking is the only mechanism that can result in a declaration that the Goldman Sachs tax deal was unlawful, as well as returning £20 million to the public purse.

Leigh Day & Co who are acting for UK Uncut Legal Action, confirmed in a letter sent in October that if the settlement reached between HMRC and Goldman Sachs, allegedly allowing the company off £20million worth of tax owed, was not reversed it would issue these proceedings which seek specific disclosure for all internal documents regarding the process by which agreement was reached.

Richard Stein from Leigh Day & Co said: “We wrote to the HMRC in October asking them to quash the deal and reclaim the millions unpaid in taxes from one of the world’s richest banks but received no response. We chased again in November and they claimed they needed more time.

“They have now replied with what we feel is an extremely weak argument as to why this decision cannot be reversed, therefore, we will now progress this legal action and issue proceedings in the High Court.”

UK Uncut Legal Action has also launched a public fundraising appeal, which has raised nearly £14,000 in two weeks with over two thousand people making small donations. This represents what the campaign group is calling a ’people’s court case’ against HMRC.

Support for this legal action has also been voiced by leading anti-poverty NGOs, MPs and Unions, such as the National Union of Teachers, Unite, PCS, GMB, Compass, and the Tax Justice Network, who have signed onto a UK Uncut Legal Action statement which says: “It is undeniably in the public interest that this important case should go through the UK courts in order to ensure transparency, accountability and fairness.”

Tim Street, director of UK Uncut Legal Action said:

“There is overwhelming public support from Unions, NGOs, MPs and thousands of ordinary people who want to see this dodgy tax deal challenged in the courts. It shows the deep level of outrage that people feel over state sanctioned tax dodging by big business, while government destroys public services that ordinary people rely on, saying that there is no money.

He continued, “It shows that the government is making a political choice to turn a blind eye to tax dodging- which loses the public purse £25bn billion a year. The government is slashing public services and the support for the poorest instead of clamping down on rich tax dodgers. This cannot be allowed to continue. Dave Hartnett’s retirement is welcome news for campaigners but HMRC needs a massive culture change to stop special treatment for corporations and secret unlawful handshake deals”
Photo Op: 1530pm, HMRC, Horse Guards Parade
Lawyers and campaigners will hand the legal documents to HMRC.
For more information, please call 07425 261 383 or 07591 992 825
The statement of support for the case is available for journalists, please contact us by email or phone to receive a copy. The Guardian Newspaper published a copy in their letter page today.

Breaking news: Parliament releases damning report into dodgy corporate tax deals

We can be one of the first to reveal the details of the Public Accounts Committee’s damning corporate tax report that is being released today. It describes systematic failures and fundamental concerns at the way HMRC operates regarding its handling of billions of pounds worth of tax disputes with big business.

This report is an important reflection of 14 months of UK Uncut campaigning by people up and down this country, well done everyone!

Here’s a summary of the key points from the PAC report:

  • HMRC is currently in negotiation over £25bn worth of tax disputes from 2,700 companies
  • There is an unfair disparity between the way some large corporations and ordinary tax payers are treated by the tax office. Companies have millions wiped off their tax bills, or they are given a whopping 10 years to pay their liabilities.  Small business owners or individuals do not receive this favorable treatment

  • HMRC is unaccountable and secretive. Even parliament, let alone the general public, do not have any oversight. The PAC finds it farcical that HMRC keeps details about high value corporate tax deals that involve billions of pounds secret. They argue that there is less justification for keeping tax information about big companies confidential than for information about individuals
  • That when called into Parliament to answer important questions about controversial tax details that have lost the public billions of pounds, Dave Hartnett – the chief tax man – gave “imprecise, inconsistent, and potentially misleading” information. Senior officials are seriously failing to be open and accountable

  • That HMRC routinely ignores its own governance procedures and that we have a ludicrous situation where those negotiating tax deals can also ‘sign off’ on these deals, sometimes even without third party legal oversight. This means that some of these tax deals could not only be outrageous, but also unlawful

  • There is a complete failure by tax officials to take any responsibility for HMRC’s failings