Report fuels tax protests against HSBC

THE campaign group UK Uncut has chosen its latest target, HSBC, as a result of suggestions from a former tax inspector that the banking giant is negotiating with the Inland Revenue to withhold around £2bn in tax.

The protest group yesterday said the bank is “next in line” for a fresh wave of protests, after a weekend of unrest that led to the closure of shops across the country.

Demonstrations took place in London and Liverpool at HSBC branches, including a sleep-in protest in Covent Garden.

A source close to HSBC told City A.M. last night: “We are fully transparent in our dealings with HMRC and have contributed £5bn in UK tax over the last five years making HSBC a top 10 UK tax payer.”

However, former HMRC corporate tax inspector Richard Brooks claims to have uncovered alleged tax avoidance measures relating to the bank’s Hong Kong operation, worth up to £2bn over the last eight years.

“The thing about tax avoidance is it’s depriving everyone else of money,” Brooks last night told City A.M.

UK Uncut spokesperson Jonathan Ross told said last night that protesters are “keen to take action” against HSBC.

He said: “This is money on the brink of being avoided.”

Trading at stores across Britain was suspended on Saturday after protests, which included campaigners blockading Top Shop’s flagship store on Oxford Street.

UK Uncut says it is unhappy with the tax status of the wife of Sir Philip Green – who is a resident of Monaco – which enabled her to receive a £1.2bn dividend from Topshop parent Arcadia in 2005 virtually tax-free.

Demonstrations also took place at other Arcadia Group stores, as well as at Vodafone outlets.

Vodafone last night said protesters had held demonstrations at fewer than five per cent of its 400 stores nationwide, resulting in a minimal impact on trading.

A spokesperson said: “Vodafone pays its taxes. Vodafone has no unpaid tax bill. HMRC itself has called the £6bn figure being used by protesters an ‘urban myth’”.