Tax protesters step up protest against stores

Protesters outside Topshop in Oxford Street, London Protesters say they are also demonstrating against the coalition government's public sector cuts

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Protesters against tax avoidance have staged demonstrations at shops across the UK on what is traditionally the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

UK Uncut said it held sit-down protests in cities including London, Edinburgh and Manchester against the Arcadia Group, Boots, Vodafone and Barclays.

Arcadia Group's flagship Topshop and BHS shops in Oxford Street were hit.

The wife of Sir Philip Green, the firm's boss, has been criticised for living in a tax haven.

At Topshop in Oxford Street, demonstrators sat in protest on the shop floor chanting "Green, pay your taxes".

But unperturbed shoppers were seen still hunting for Christmas presents around them.

The demonstrations follow a larger protest at the store earlier this month and incidents in October when UK Uncut picketed entrances to shops owned by Vodafone, which has also been accused of avoiding tax payments.

At the scene

The blizzard conditions did not deter the action at Top Shop on Oxford Street in London.

Before the planned protest time of 1300 pairs of policemen were standing at every door.

By 1415 the ranks of the police swelled and protesters already inside mingling with Christmas shoppers came forward as a group and started chanting 'Philip Green, pay your taxes'.

At least two protesters were removed by security guards and one demonstrator required four guards to carry him out into the freezing cold.

UK Uncut, which arranged the demonstration using micro blogging site Twitter, said Topshop's parent firm Arcadia was its main target.

Nobody from the company was available for comment.

UK Uncut said it also took action in 52 other locations on Saturday at sites including Brighton, Truro, Cambridge, Liverpool, Wrexham, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Nottingham and Oxford.

Sussex Police said two men, aged 21 and 27 and both from Brighton, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and public order offences.

One reportedly glued himself to a branch of Dorothy Perkins - also owned by Arcadia - and the other to a BHS store in the city.

Protester Rebecca Davies, 32, said: "Over four years £100bn is expected to be lost from the public purse to tax avoidance, which could pay for so many of the cuts that will hit the poorest in our society.

"The argument that the only way to cut the public deficit is to cut public services is a lie. The coalition is ideologically smashing a public sector that supports the poorest."

The group says reclaiming unpaid tax from business was an alternative to the government's planned cuts.

What is UK Uncut?

  • Calls itself an army of citizen volunteers determined to make wealthy tax avoiders pay.
  • One of the founding members, Daniel Garvin, 26, says the idea was formed by 10 friends chatting about the cuts in a north London pub in October.
  • He says the original plan was to see if they could "get the issue of tax avoidance by massive corporations" on to the political agenda by staging one protest action against Vodafone.
  • The group's main targets are Vodafone and Sir Philip Green, whose retail empire includes Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton.
  • Subsequent protests have forced Topshop's stores in Oxford Street, London, and Manchester's Arndale shopping centre to close.
  • The group likes to be seen as a decentralised and organic movement empowered by individuals.
  • It currently has more than 9,000 Facebook members and 11,000 Twitter followers.

Topshop owner Sir Philip is one of the UK's most successful retailers.

With a personal fortune of more than £4bn, he runs the Arcadia Group, whose fashion chains also include Burton, Evans and Miss Selfridge.

His wife Tina is the direct owner of Arcadia, and she is officially a resident of Monaco. This enabled her to gain a tax-free £1.2bn dividend in 2005.

Speaking in August about the tax status of his wife, Sir Philip told the BBC: "My wife's not a tax exile - my family do not live in the United Kingdom, it's somewhat different.

"We do pay all our tax in Britain. I think we have paid over the last five years some £300-400m in taxes on profits that have been made on our company.

"I'm a UK taxpayer, I work here every week, we employ 45,000 people in the UK and we have got a £500m payroll."

Since the election Sir Philip has been appointed by the government to look into Whitehall efficiency and he produced a report which described "staggering" wastage.

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