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Cooking the Books: A Reply to the New Economics Foundation

Reply sent to a letter from the Green-leaning think-tank asking for a financial donation.

Thank you for your letter of 18 July addressing me ‘as an owner of the Royal Bank of Scotland …’  I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding. I don’t own any shares in RBS.

I expect you have addressed me in this way because at the moment RBS is majority-owned by the government and because you have been taken in by media propaganda that, as the government is financed by taxes and as we are all ‘taxpayers’ even if only nominally, what is owned by the government belongs to us all. It does not take much thought to see through this fallacy. Or will your begging letter next year begin ‘As an owner of the British war fleet …’?

Cooking the Books: Income Tax or Sales Tax?

Different capitalist firms operating in Britain have reacted differently to the criticism that some of them have not been paying their fair share of taxes to the British state. Some multinational corporations have defiantly replied that in choosing to pay tax on their profits in countries where the rate is lower they have broken no laws and are just pursuing the best interests of their shareholders. Others, mainly firms operating only in Britain and so not having this option, are complaining that this amounts to unfair competition against them.

Centrica, the conglomerate which owns British Gas, commissioned a consultancy to work out how much they contribute to the British economy:

Cooking the Books: Who Gains From ‘Tax Justice’?

The Tax Justice Network lobbies and petitions. UK Uncut takes direct action. Both to try to get tax-dodging companies to pay more taxes to the British government. Surely this can only be good? If they pay more taxes we can pay less. Or the government could use the extra money to provide better services or at least not to cut them so much.

You have to be naïve to think that. If you believe the media, ‘we’, ‘the taxpayers’ and ‘the government’ are one and the same. Because the government has a majority shareholding in RBS and Lloyds we are told that these banks belong to us, the taxpayers. This is as silly as saying in the past that the railways and the coal mines belonged to us because they were nationalised.

Taxation and the Working Class

From the series on Marxian Economics.

Venue: The Latin American Bookshop,
29 Islington Park Street, London

The original tape source is of poor quality, especially for the questions and discussion in part two. The worst bits have been deleted, and this is indicated by the addition of two seconds of silence.

Sunday, 27 April 1980

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