Why I don’t agree with UK Uncut’s critics

In this post, I’m going to let you into a little secret about tax avoidance campaigners. But I’ll come back to that in a bit.

In a week bookended by the Public Accounts Committee’s criticism of Starbucks, Amazon and Google, and UK Uncut’s planned action in Starbucks stores, the usual criticisms of ‘name and shame’ campaigns have been given an airing. Today I want to address a couple of them, to explain why I believe that the campaigns run by NGOs or by grassroots activists are valuable.

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On the contribution of corporate tax scandals to debate

My post last Tuesday provoked a disgruntled email from a tax academic. “I do not feel qualified to say whether the Starbucks royalty is excessive or not,” wrote my correspondent. “I think that is HMRC’s job. Do you feel qualified to say it is excessive? If so, on what evidence?”

This is a fair question, although the post in question does not make this assertion (I did, after all, spend a decade crafting carefully worded allegations against companies with big legal budgets…). But it got me thinking about the stalemate that exists around corporate tax exposés such as the recent ones concerning Starbucks and Facebook, as well as some of the older ones, such as Google and Vodafone.

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