Friday 07 December 2012

This week seems to have been the point where a lot of people have found there Post It note with ‘get annoyed about big companies getting away with paying taxes’ that they wrote down at some point in the last few years. It’s definitely not a new story.

Maybe we’re being told it is more important by the good people in the media, keen to move on the news cycle from last week’s news where they were telling us the Leveson Enquiry findings were balls – but people were mainly reminded that elements of the media tapped the phones of dead children and made up stories about serious tragedies. I’m sure it’s not that though.

It’s easy to lambaste Google, Amazon and Starbucks for their actions. I choose to use their free search engine, buy books from them and occasionally drink their coffee. I’m only being slightly facetious. And mainly completely honest also. But yes it is pretty poor that there are massive companies making a lot of money out of people in the UK and not really feeding anything back in the system. But they are giving me cheap books.

What really needs to happen is that the laws around this kind of thing stop it being something that is legal. It’s all well and good for people to start drawing logos similar to that of Starbucks – perhaps changing the words on the logo or adding some kind of coffee based pun – on pieces of card and protesting with it. And, yes, the people who do get involved in protests like are going to happen this weekend probably unanimously wouldn’t look after number one. But a lot of people try and get the best of a situation for themselves within whatever rules there are. Multinational conglomerates tend to be more self-serving than people. Multinational conglomerates operating in times of global economic tend to be keen on finding whatever loophole* exists to make as much money as possible.

There are two issues with this. One, it would be nice if the taxes/duties being paid on things bought in England went back into the British economy in some way. Secondly, these arrowslits (that only makes sense if you have already read the footnote – or understand where the term loophole comes from) are always thing horribly exploited by the ridiculously wealthy. Like when Jimmy Carr got loathed (more so) for his tax-not-paying. It just seems really horrible when really rich people are doing things to avoid paying stuff. If it was an old person playing the system and getting fuel for free on Money Saving Expert they would be lauded. But a multi-millionaire who makes his money joking about rape saves a couple of hundred grand by playing the system and everyone wanted him tarred and feathered.

As for the people who will be protesting: I am not quite sure what stuff like this achieves. Most of the people taking part probably wont use chains like Starbucks anyway; lots of people who do kind of thing will think it’s OK that they have occasional lattes at Starbucks because they want one and they are really nice; some people just plain don’t give a fuck. When companies look at the millions and millions they save by these tax schemes I am pretty sure they weigh up the cost of the negative publicity that might arise. And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t affect the decision – or gets remotely close to it.

My friend is a more active socialist than I am – which is not difficult. But he says how a lot of the very active socialists he meets on his marches say how you have to choose your battles. They shop at Tesco for example – rather than use local traders. Because there are bigger fights, they say. I would argue that it is a little bit because you do have to choose your fights – but it also really easy and convenient to use Tescos and they have great, great prices. As do other supermarkets.

I’ve strayed from my very uninteresting point here which is that booing businesses for exploiting legal ways to make maximum profit is like being annoyed at woodlice for rotting your wood. You have to stop allowing it. Or live with the benefits (jobs, cheaper goods/services). Wherever possible I am sure everyone would like to go with an ethical supplier who was paid staff well etc but this is more commonly drowned out by people wanting to pay the lowest price for something. Especially when times are hard.

*Do you know where this term comes from? It was word used to describe the narrow windows people used to fire arrow from in castles. But it was also a point in through which invading parties could gain access. So invaders using something that was there as part of a castle’s defence system is where the loophole thing comes from. I just thought it was something to a loop of rope, something that I didn’t understand.

ADVENT Images – No VII Jimi Hendrix Not Being Able to Align A Basic False Beard with His Mouth

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