Dec 142012
 

By Bob Smith.

Amazon, Google an Starbucks
Hiv avoided pyein some tax
Throwe a loophole in the law
Fit’s bin mair than a bittie lax

Multinationals they div employ
Accoontants tae fin sic wyes
Thae chiels are up tae scratch
An in tax laws are richt wise

You an me we pye oor dues
We micht hae a girn an sweir
An fit the tax mannie tells us
Is nae aye sae bliddy clear

It seems its nae agin the law
Fer firms tae use sic ploys
Bit morally it’s jist nae richt
If the law faavour’s “ big boys”

Time fowk pit a stop tae iss
Mak the slippery buggers think
Jist boycott the likes o Starbucks
Fin ye buy yer next coffee drink

Pye yer dues shud be the cry
Yer bunk balance micht tak a hit
Fit wye shud the rest o us suffer
Cos ye employ a tax swerving git

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

Jul 262012
 

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah can barely contain her excitement over the Olympics and Tartan Day, and reviews the week’s past local events. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  I guess we’ve all had an exciting week, and with the Olympics upon us and Tartan Day around the corner, you can practically feel the excitement.

I am not sure whether we will need to deploy surface-to-air missiles on top of St Nicholas House to ensure Tartan Day goes without a hitch like they’re doing with the Olympic games (what could go wrong?).  I am not clear as to whether there will be a special ‘Tartan Day’ lane on our main roads for VIPs, either.

But in all seriousness, it should be fun.

There has been so much in the news these last few weeks about morals – people wanting to marry people of the same sex just because they’re in love; people committing moral crimes (like paying in cash for services) and so on; who’s to know what’s moral and what’s not any more?

As well as looking to our community leaders, movie stars and elected officials for guidance through the murky waters of morality, Old Susannah has some advice and of course definitions.

Moral Superiority: (Eng. phrase) – claim of holding a higher set of values and ethics than another person or group (not to be confused with smug, self-righteous, conceited, or small-minded).

Firstly, we are all shocked, angered and saddened by the main news, I’m sure.  Kirsten Stewart, Twilight and Snow White star is not snow-white like the rest of us after all.   Stewart has had a brief encounter with a married film director.

No doubt armies of Twilight fans in thrall to her Twilight co-star, Robert Pattison, will be baying for Stewart to be burned at the stake.  After all, Hollywood is no place for people to have affairs, and a star in a quick fling with a director is without precedent.

I’m sure all of us remember what it was like to be in our late teens and early twenties, and we all remember how responsible we were then, never making any mistakes, never experimenting, and of course always being faithful.

Being as good as we were is just as easy if you’re trying to fit into Hollywood and make your way in life in front of a lens.  Otherwise, there would be one or two examples of child stars who had unhappy, stormy lives.  It is important to remember that what goes on between the people involved is the world’s business, because they are famous.

let’s not forget either that it is OK for a man to cheat, but for a girl to do so is unacceptable

It must be Kristen’s fault, mustn’t it?  Helpless Hollywood director, all on his own, and a worldly twenty-something woman, and all that.  We owe a huge debt of gratitude to US Weekly’s campaigning, morally-superior investigative journalists and the editors who put them on the scent of this crucial news story.

Will Stewart and Pattison get together again?  Will they be happily married and never divorce?  I can barely sleep nights for thinking about it.

Other than that, there is something in the news about a bank scandal, and civilians including children being tortured and killed in a place called Syria.  Will get back to you on that boring stuff some other time, but for now best keep your money in your mattress.  (I have deliberately spared you any lame puns in the ‘Twilight’ vampire vein.  I didn’t think I’d earn your fangs if I wrote anything about what was at stake for Stewart and Pattison, and I didn’t want any hilarious jokes giving anyone a coffin fit.  Bad vampire puns suck).

Now that we’ve established we are all morally superior to Ms Stewart and her director, let’s not forget either that it is OK for a man to cheat, but for a girl to do so is unacceptable.  I hope Ms Stewart will look to other famous role models in Hollywood and Government for clues as how to be as morally acceptable, faithful and upright as they are in the future.

One last observation, courtesy of the Facebook page of George Takei (something popular with the young people I’m told).  In the Harry Potter saga, when the heroine’s boyfriend leaves her, Hermione goes on a quest to save the world.  In the Twilight saga, when the heroine’s boyfriend leaves her, Bella sits in a chair for three months, doing nothing but crying.  Hmm.

Morally Wrong: (Eng phrase) behaviour or opinions which go against prevailing standards.

Hooray!  The Coalition government is going after those who are ‘morally wrong’ – and they should know all about morals, shouldn’t they?

Exchequer Secretary David Gauke has publicly accused homeowners who give workers cash of helping them avoid tax.  Tax avoidance!  NO!  Our tax system is totally fair, and anyone who is doing jobs for cash is always a morally bankrupt criminal. And the government have more than a little experience with tax avoidance.

  The Government practices what it preaches, and no MPs are guilty of any tax evasion, book-fiddling, or expense padding at all

The Revenue has, after a few expensive meals and hospitality events, waived goodbye to tax which was owed to you and I by Vodaphone, to name but one multinational that hasn’t paid what it owed.  These few settlements made by the government to multinationals of a billion here and a few hundred million there can eventually add up to significant amounts, but nothing like the man who wants £50 for painting your hallway.

Rumour has it that even here in the respectable North East of Scotland, one of our very own billionaires changed some of his employment schemes to keep money offshore and out of the taxman’s pocket.  Wood that I could tell you who I was thinking of.

The Government practices what it preaches, and no MPs are guilty of any tax evasion, book-fiddling, or expense padding at all.  The government needs all the money it can get for worthwhile causes like buying more weaponry.  After we’ve taken care of the defence budget, we can throw a few scraps to the poor (but only the ‘undeserving’ poor of course).

Hopefully, we’ve got all the lazy MS, cancer-stricken, paralysed layabouts back into meaningful work (whether paid or not), so we should probably consider cutting back on social welfare programmes.    It might seem that there is one rule for the rich and powerful, and another for the rest of us, but I’m sure this is just illusory.

I admit that there are people who make a career out of avoiding tax who are involved in the building trade; they should be brought to book, and made to behave like MPs, bankers  and company directors.

Once Scotland is independent, it will all be different, I’m sure.   But remember, if you hire someone to paint your front steps or fix your garden, don’t pay in cash.  Try to pay them with a service in kind instead – let’s see how that would work.

Moral High Ground: (Eng. phrase) The position of superiority of those with codes and values above the prevailing standards in society.

Well, thank heavens for the Westboro Baptist Church!  Where would we be without them.  These followers of Christ (who once apparently had something to do with ‘love one another’ and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ and other outdated nonsense) are showing us the way.

  These people occupy the moral high ground, because they know what god would have wanted

They nearly came to Aberdeen once to spread the word against immoral behaviour like homosexuality, but they changed their minds.  Old Susannah was so looking forward to greeting them appropriately as well; so were several hundred others.  Perhaps they still will.

These people occupy the moral high ground, because they know what god would have wanted.  They helpfully show up at funerals for servicemen and women who were gay, and create delightful, enlightening events for the mourners, in the true spirit of Christianity of course.

Strangely no mainstream churches seem brave enough to join Westboro on its crusades against gays, blacks, Jewish people and others.  I wonder why.  When I have a chance, I think I’ll ask Westboro about some of its positions; I am starting to wonder if they are a bit racist and homophobic – and I’m not quite able to find the bits in the bible telling me God wants it that way.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little update on what is and isn’t moral, and if you have any questions, just get in touch with Westboro.

Next week:  a romp through Aberdeen’s draft financial accounts – which everyone has the chance to examine until 18 August.

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Oct 212011
 

Joshua Upton reports on a special tour run by Aberdeen against Austerity.

Scandalous! Outrageous! Unbelievable!

Just some of the cries that shook Aberdeen on Saturday, the day of Global Revolution.

Well, when I say shook, I mean lightly rattled. And when I say the whole of Aberdeen, I mean the staff of Topshop Union Street Branch.

But while not the PR coup Aberdeen Against Austerity may have been hoping for, their actions on Saturday 15th October certainly turned a large number of heads. Well, when I say a large number…

Back to the beginning. While cars burn, banks are attacked and protests bring hundreds of entire cities to a halt in 82 countries world wide, Apathetic Aberdeen had its own version of the Global Revolution – A guided tour of Union Street.

‘A guided tour of Union Street?’ I hear you say, ‘Hardly worth mention’. Ah, but this was a special tour, run by those rabble-rousers at Aberdeen Against Austerity. Instead of showing the hidden beauty of Aberdeen, the Scoundrels and Scallywags tour of Aberdeen was dedicated to revealing the underbelly of corporate Aberdeen, and aimed to highlight tax avoidance and other nefarious deeds by Aberdeen’s financial elite.

The tour began outside the St. Nicholas centre, with the initial target on the hit list being M & S.

Yes, M & S. The true good food we all know and love is not as good as we thought. A whole 19.08% of companies owned by the Marks and Spencer Group are located in tax havens.

What’s more, workers in an Indian Marks and Spencer Group factory were getting paid as little a 26p per hour to make M & S clothes in 2010, well below international standards. This opening salvo of information turned a few heads outside, and some stopped to listen to the tour, however most people’s attention was soaked up by the band playing a few metres away.

This leg of the tour caused a bit of a fuss, with the tour being expelled from the building and the police being called

Stop number two was an obvious one to say the least, Topshop. It is part of the Arcadia Group, which also owns Topman, BHS, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, to name but a few. The Group is run and administered by CEO Sir Philip Green, but is owned by his wife and sole shareholder, Tina Green.

As Tina is a resident of Monaco, Tina and Philip are able to minimize UK tax through this tax avoidance scheme. This leg of the tour caused a bit of a fuss, with the tour being expelled from the building and the police being called, but we’ll get to that later.

Crossing back across the street, the tour arrived at RBS Union Street Branch.

The Taxpayer’s generous donation of 24 billion to the banks in the form of bailout money was mentioned – which equates to £400 from every man, woman and child in the country. And then the issue of RBS’ £25 billion tax avoidance schemes was raised. But then again, they are bankers, so not much of that should really come as a surprise, and no passers-by seemed surprised either.

Numero cuatro on the tour was Vodaphone, the scoundrels who have spent the last decade fighting doggedly  to avoid paying tax, with the sum so far coming up to 6 billion in unpaid tax. But Mr Osborne is a nice guy, and so let them off with not paying ANY of their unpaid tax.

In fact, he’s SO nice that he decided to give Vodaphone a few of the top jobs as governmental advisors. Can you guess which department? That’s right, In tax.

The next stop was by far the most eventful part of the tour. First, while walking to the Barclays branch on Union Street, it was noticed that someone was following the group, which it was then noted was the security guard from Topshop.

It seems he had become a vigilante in the last 15 minutes and decided to ‘protect’ the whole of Union Street from this band of roving ‘Anarchists’; truly he is a hero of Aberdeen, although he eventually got bored and started talking to the security in HMV.

But yet more eventfulness occurred during the talk on Barclays (who, as well as being bankers – an instant sign of being a Scallywag – Barclays have a particularly nasty portfolio that includes both food speculation and a £7.3 billion investment in the arms trade sector, the largest global share) when, you guessed it again, the po-po turned up.  Forgive the terminology, I don’t usually belittle the police, most just do their jobs, but what happened here can only really be called harassment.

Watch out Hidden Aberdeen Tours, you may soon find yourselves blacklisted as enemies of the state.  

While discussing the evils committed by Barclays, three police officers approached the group, apparently Topshop had lodged a complaint that the tour was being a nuisance, quite a feat seeing as the group was now about two hundred metres away.

The officers repeatedly asked for information and details from members of the group, which was refused each and every time, as they had no right to ask. They kept asking who was in charge, to which it was explained that no one was. And they kept referring to the tour as a protest.

Watch out Hidden Aberdeen Tours, you may soon find yourselves blacklisted as enemies of the state.

After the conclusion of the Barclays talk, and the departure of the police officers, the tour continued on its final leg with two concluding pieces on Union Terrace Gardens, Sir Ian Wood, and the mischievous dealings of Woodgroup PLC, mainly along the lines of tax avoidance (although not confirmed, it is believed that 26% of his companies are located in tax havens and he has skimped on paying his employer National Insurance contributions) and the false generosity of Sir Wood’s £50 million to the Union Terrance Gardens Refurbishment.

Seeing as he already owes that money to the government in taxes, its not really a gift. It’s like giving an old lady £20 after you assault and mug her of the same £20 the week before.

In all, while the Scoundrels and Scallywags tour of Aberdeen may not have had the same impact of the Rome protests, and it may not be as daring as the current Wall Street and St Paul’s occupations, it was an important step for Aberdeen.

People’s attention is being grabbed by the imaginative campaigns being carried out by Aberdeen Against Austerity, local doers of corporate evil are becoming more concerned about popular opposition, and it was one of the best attended actions to date.

Oct 212011
 

Last week Chicho Sanchez  spent a few days analysing the data from the recently published report on tax havens by ActionAid UK. Here he shares his findings with Voice readers.

The figures, published in the Guardian, show that 98% of the FTSE100 have subsidiary companies in tax havens.

While this is not illegal and is not directly an admission of tax avoidance, it gives us a glimpse behind the thick curtain of big business and has confirmed to many their suspicions about multi-national corporations.

However, during those few days I began to realise something else…that the claim “Capitalism creates more choice than ever before[1]” is an illusion.

It is an Illusion of Choice.

I began to map out where the FTSE100 were operating in Aberdeen and how often we, as members of the public, come into contact with companies from the index. Parent Companies are in red and in brackets.

Carola is visiting Aberdeen for the weekend.

She arrives on the P&O (Carnival Group) Ferry from the Islands  She is staying at the Premier Inn (Whitbread Plc) on North West Street opposite the Lemon Tree. She had looked at the Holiday Inn (Intercontinental Hotels Group) on Chapel Street but it was full. In the morning, she goes to the centre to via the Bon Accord and St. Nicholas Centres (50% Land Securities Group – 50% British Land plc). She stops in the Bon Accord Centre for a coffee at Costa Coffee (Whitbread Plc) and checks her emails on her (Vodafone) mobile phone using the wi-fi perhaps provided by (BT).

As she strolls through the St. Nicholas centre (50% Land Securities Group – 50% British Land plc) she stops to look at the clothes in the window of Next (Next Group). She leaves and stops in WHSmiths (FTSE250) to buy a Financial Times (Pearson Plc) and a copy of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ published by Penguin (Pearson Plc) for some bed time reading.

It’s a typical day in Aberdeen. Cold and wet, Carola vows to stay indoors as much as possible. She hears about the new Union Square Shopping Centre (Hammerson Plc) and decides to visit the attraction. There she finds Marks and Spencers (Marks and Spencer Group) selling all manner of goods.  After a while she heads back to Union Street where she withdraws money from the Barclays (Barclays Bank Plc) cash machine on Union Street .

Feeling the beginnings of a head cold coming on she makes her way to Boots where she buys some Nurofen (Reckitt Benckiser), some Strepsils (Reckitt Benckiser), Beechams (Glaxosmithklein) and a bottle of Lucozade (Glaxosmithklein) for energy. She wonders across to Union Terrace Gardens where she meets a group of protesters conducting a tour of the city’s underbelly. She joins the tour and learns of Ian Wood’s (John Wood Group Plc) ‘vision’ for the Gardens. She leaves at the end of the tour and heads back to her warm hotel for a rest. The energy for the hotel might be provided by SSE (formerly Scottish and Southern Energy).

Before bed she has a Grolsch (SabMiller Plc) in the bar and a cigarette containing Golden Virginia Tobacco (Imperial Tobacco) rolled in Rizla papers (Imperial Tobacco). She has a quick shower and washes her hair with the L’Oreal (Bottled by Rexam Plc) shampoo she bought at the Airport and dries herself with a towel perhaps washed in Vanish (Reckitt Benckiser). Feeling clean and happy she hits the hay.

Brenda is a mother who works part time for Tesco (Tesco Plc). She has 4 children and lives in Garthdee. Her Husband George works for (BP) in Dyce. On Tuesday afternoons she goes to Sainsburys (J Sainsburys Plc) next to B&Q (Kingfisher Plc). Her shopping list is as follows -

Food and Drinks

Blue Dragon Stir Fry Sauce (Associated British Foods Plc)
Jordans Cereals (Associated British Foods Plc)
Kingsmill Bread (Associated British Foods Plc)
Ovaltine (Associated British Foods Plc)
Patak’s Curry Sauce (Associated British Foods Plc)
Ryvita (Associated British Foods Plc)
Silver Spoon Sugar (Associated British Foods Plc)
Nambarrie Tea (Associated British Foods Plc)
Guiness (Diageo)
Lagavulin Whisky (Diageo)
Smirnoff Vodka (Diageo)
Blossom Hill Wine (Diageo)
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (Unilever)
Vienetta (Unilever)
Hellman’s Mayonnaise (Unilever)
Flora margarine (Unilever)
Knorr Stock Cubes (Unilever)
Marmite (Unilever)
Pot Noodles (Unilever)
Slim Fast (Unilever)
Peperami (Unilever)

Household Goods

Air Wick (Reckitt Benckiser)
CillitBANG (Reckitt Benckiser)
Clearasil (Reckitt Benckiser)
Dettol (Reckitt Benckiser)
Durex (Reckitt Benckiser)
E45 cream (Reckitt Benckiser)
Finish washing powder (Reckitt Benckiser)
Gaviscon (Reckitt Benckiser)
Nurofen (Reckitt Benckiser)
Brylcreem hair product (Unilever)
Dove Soap (Unilever)
Impulse Deodorant (Unilever)
Lynx Deodorant (Unilever)
Radox Bath Soap (Unilever)
Timotei Shampoo (Unilever)
Vaseline (Unilever)

On leaving Sainsburys she stops at the Kiosk to buy George’s magazines. He likes The Economist(50% owned by Pearson Plc) and the New Scientist (Reed Elsevier). She buys their weekly nicotine ration in the form of Lambert and Butler (Imperial Tobacco) and Windsor Blue (Imperial Tobacco) and drives home.

It’s an Illusion.

Whatever is bought in the mainstream world is bought from the FTSE100, the DAX, the Dow Jones, the Nikkei 225 etc…There is no real choice under the current economic system.

This economic system is based on exploitation of humans, ecocide, and perpetual inequality. It is broken and it is time we looked at building a society without private property and hierarchy (not possessions like houses, tools etc. but estates, reservoirs, intellectual property and the like) based on equality, tolerance, justice and participatory democracy.

Attached is a breakdown of the FTSE100 companies present in Aberdeen and the number of Subsidiaries each maintains in tax havens.
http://aberdeenvoice.com/2010/10/companies-present-in-aberdeen-tax-havens/ 

Source – 1 http://listverse.com/2010/12/24/top-10-greatest-benefits-of-capitalism/

Image Credits:
GEOMETRIC RAINBOW PATTERN BACKGROUND 1 WALLPAPER © Nlizer | Dreamstime.com
GO TOWARDS THE LIGHT! © Kirsty Pargeter | Dreamstime.com 

Jul 012011
 

In a week where the media have been vilifying public sector workers taking strike action to protest at government cuts and pension changes, little coverage has been given to alternative proposals for dealing with the UK’s economic deficit. Patrick V Neville gives his views.

On June 30 we visited two picket lines and attended a meeting of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) to understand their feelings on cuts in public services and to show support for the workers who, against the wishes of the government, organised strike action.
Needless to say, PCS members we spoke to felt unhappy about our nation’s financial situation.

If the full cuts proposed are implemented, one in every five public service jobs would be lost, adding further to the UK’s unemployment rate. Not only could there be fewer jobs, but those who will still have a job available to them face cuts to their pension schemes.

Each worker in government pension schemes could see their contributions doubled or even tripled. To the best of my knowledge, this extra money contributed will initially end up in government funds – but with rising poverty, corporate tax avoidance and evasion and rising prices of consumer goods, will there even be money available for pensions in a few years time? If so, will the cost of living become too expensive for the average person to survive?

Investment in jobs and public services must be in place if we desire a future free from poverty and we could avoid the majority of public services cuts if we take the right course of action.

Corporate tax loopholes are estimated to be costing the tax payer £25 billion a year.

Since moving its headquarters to Switzerland, Boots has reduced its annual tax bill from £100m to £14m, a saving enough to employ 4000 NHS nurses.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/11/boots-switzerland-uk

Rather than closing tax loopholes, we are making cuts in the public sector.

Billionaire Sir Philip Green is to advise the government on how best to plan for the cuts, rewarding himself hugely in doing so. Sir Philip is the owner of the Arcadia retail group which includes Topshop, Topman, Burton, BHS, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge. The company is registered in the name of Sir Philip’s wife Tina, who resides in Monaco and therefore pays no UK income tax. This arrangement has allowed the Greens to save around £300m in UK taxes.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/03/topshop-philip-green-tax-avoidance-protest

Tax evasion and avoidance aside, who have we bailed out?

The Royal Bank of Scotland was rescued with £45 billion of public money. This represents over half of the £81 billion planned in cuts over the next four years. Rather than being allowed to stay open, the bank should have come to terms with closure.

Public spending cuts are more damaging, and minimising them and their effect is more important than encouraging risk-taking bankers to carry on trading.

UK Uncut has leafleted members of the public near the premises of targeted retailers to inform them of tax avoiding measures taken by these retailers.
http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

I would encourage anyone wishing to preserve a future free from poverty to choose where they shop carefully, to write to politicians and businessmen, to contact journalists to demand coverage of tax avoidance and evasion and simply to consider bringing up these issues with friends and relatives.