Vodafone shops blockaded in tax protest

Protest outside Vodafone in Oxford St
Image caption Vodafone said the protest was misguided and insisted they did pay their taxes

Campaigners claiming Vodafone has been let off an unpaid tax bill of £6bn spent the day blockading several shops.

Campaigner Ed Brompton said: "This money - £6bn - could be spent on schools, housing and hospitals."

But a Vodafone spokesman denied the tax bill reports, adding: "We pay our taxes in the UK and all of the other countries in which we operate."

A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said of the £6bn: "That number is an urban myth."

Four shops in central London were forced to close on Saturday because of the demonstrations, sparked by a campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

Other shops were closed by demos in Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hastings, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and York.

One of the protesters, Deborah Lee, said: "The cuts are not fair; we're not all in this together, and there are alternatives. Why not start by collecting the tens of billions owed in taxes by wealthy corporations? The government is writing off the taxes from big business while treating normal people on benefits like criminals."

Another protester, Ben Olabayi, said: "We will not pay for their crisis! The public need to join together and hit the streets to take concerted action to fight these cuts."

A Vodafone spokesman said there had been protests outside a small number of UK stores and added: "We temporarily closed some of them and diverted customers to other locations so they were not inconvenienced."

He said: "We pay our taxes in the UK and all of the other countries in which we operate.

"Reports suggesting that we have an outstanding tax bill for £6bn are incorrect, as this was never the case."

The HMRC spokesman said: "We can't comment on the details of the settlement but we can confirm that it was reached by HMRC following a rigorous examination of the facts. It was agreed that Vodafone's liability was £1.25bn and at no point was the liability greater than that.

"There is no question of Vodafone having a tax liability of £6bn. That number is an urban myth."

The campaigners cite an investigation by Private Eye magazine which they said showed the taxman had dropped an attempt to reclaim £6bn in taxes.

The sum purportedly stems from Vodafone's purchase of the German telecoms firm Mannesmann, which was supposedly bought through a Luxembourg subsidiary to avoid paying tax in Britain.

The campaigners have also set up an online petition calling on the government to insist Vodafone pay the money.

The world's largest mobile operator measured by revenue saw "organic service revenue" rise 1.1% to £10.6bn in the April to June quarter.

Last week Vodafone was told to pay a 112bn rupee (£1.6bn) tax bill in India.

Vodafone has been given 30 days to cough up the £1.6bn the Indian government claims it owes following the 2007 purchase of the Indian telephone assets of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.

Vodafone claimed the $11bn transaction was exempt from tax because it took place between two offshore entities.

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