The revelation that five of the world’s biggest investment banks paid no corporation tax in Britain last year (23 December) shines a light on the huge flaws in the global tax system. Sadly it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to multinationals slashing their tax bills by shifting numbers around on a spreadsheet.
The gaps, weaknesses and loopholes in the global tax system have enabled tax avoidance on a massive scale, which hits poor people around the world: estimates from the IMF suggest that developing countries lose $200bn per year. That money could be used to tackle poverty by funding lasting change to public services such as education and healthcare.
The disclosure of banks’ tax payments was only possible because the EU legislated for public country-by-country reporting for banks. That legislation should now be extended to all multinational companies so that the public can see the profits and tax they pay in every country they operate, including in the poorest countries in the world.
It is time to shine a light into the dark corners of the global tax system.
Tax Justice Policy Adviser
I’m not surprised to read your headline “Five top banks pay no UK corporation tax”. If the politicians and lawyers are incapable of finding a way to make these companies pay their fair share, then fine them billions for being antisocial and greedy!
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas
Christmas indeed offers a chance to slow down, and to reflect on what matters to each of us (Simon Kelner, 23 December, “I’m Jewish – but here’s why Christmas is still my favourite festival”). Many Jews and people belonging to other minority faiths welcome the spiritual contribution of Christmas, as a time to focus on family and friends.
Ironically, a number of Jews have helped with the development of Christmas, for example writing festive songs (Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is probably the most famous example) and a Jewish shopkeeper in the 1870s, Raphael Tuck, even created the Christmas card for the mainstream.
There is another side to the history of Christmas, since it marked the time of heightened anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews. As an example, Jewish shops in Warsaw were attacked over Christmas in 1881, part of the pogroms of the time. Some Jewish leaders in Europe warned against Jews going out on Nittel Nacht, or Christmas Eve, as they felt it too dangerous.
Thankfully we have come a long way since then. It may not have a religious significance for Jews, but non-Christians can still enjoy this special time of the year.
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews
Simon Kelner’s thoughts about Christmas reminded me of my time doing National Service in Germany.
I was the only Jew in a regiment of about 1000 men, and on Christmas Eve we all had to go onto the parade ground for Church Parade. The Sergeant Major would bellow as follows:
“RCs two paces forward,
MARCH! ODs [other denominations] two paces backward; MARCH!
Acker: STAND FAST!”
Then with 400 or 500 men in front of, and a similar number behind, the SM would and tell me in a conversational tone to “march ’em off”. I would march one group to the RC parade and the other to the CofE.
I was instructed to lie on my bed for an hour, and then collect them.
Remember Rhodes and his atrocities
I believe it’s wrong to topple the statues of the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University (“Oriel College offers ‘third way’ on Cecil Rhodes statue”, 23 December).
I don’t condone Rhodes’s racism and imperialism (indeed, I strongly condemn them), but it seems that erasing Rhodes from the history of Oxford University would be as if we were pretending these atrocities did not exist, a kind of self-imposed censorship that would prevent future generations from thinking about Rhodes and the imperialism he represented.
If we don’t remember all of our country’s history, the good and the bad, the philanthropic and the imperialist, the liberal and the racist, then we condemn ourselves to be cultural amnesiacs: neither sure where or who we are, whence we came, or where we intend to go.
Who will know of our failures and follies if we don’t know them ourselves? Far better it would be to put up plaques, explaining the historical context in which the ideas of Rhodes flourished, than to erase it and pretend such atrocities did not happen.
The statues of individuals like Cecil Rhodes should not be removed as they are potent reminders of Britain’s slave-owning past. Instead they should be covered in shrouds. Twice a year, on the anniversary of the individual’s birth and death, the shrouds could be removed as part of an educational event.
Power to the voters
Some of us here in Dorset have laboured for a year raising a petition to put an end to the “cabinet rule of law”’ that reigns supreme in West Dorset District Council (WDDC). We now have enough signatures to force a referendum giving the electorate an opportunity to vote for a change to “committee” governance.
In 2011, from 43 per cent of votes cast, Conservatives were elected to 67 per cent seats of seats available in WDDC. Seven of these councillors occupied all of the executive seats. The national figures at the last general election were worse; the Tories were elected on about 25 per cent of eligible votes. In essence, West Dorset’s main towns are unrepresented politically; not one of their elected representatives sits on WDDC’s executive committee.
What sort of democracy do we live in when it has become necessary for citizens to demand that their representatives have a voice in decision-making?
Politicians talk only in ideological “tongues” but invariably display an insatiable hunger for power. Unless we pull together for proportional representation and make politicians listen not only to us, but more importantly to each other, party politics will continue to divide and betray us.
Is it an early spring or a late autumn?
Much fuss has been made about spring coming earlier and earlier, especially last year when this year’s spring flowers were out in October.
This year, by contrast, I’ve had none of next year’s flowers until a week ago and I’ve only got three crocuses open now. On top of that, this summer’s roses are still in bloom, so not only has next spring arrived later this year than this spring did last year but this autumn has arrived later too, so clearly there is no cause for alarm and the recent evacuation of houses near and in the river here is nothing but alarmism.
Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire
What are Chelsea playing at?
There is nothing surprising about Chelsea’s bad form this year. The players have acted like spoilt children. Now the manger has been sacked they all feel better. Very sad that they have total lack of respect of loyalty to their fans who have to pay out vast amounts of money each week to pay their inflated wages.
Not such a small niche
Kevin Garside (21 December) describes rugby league as a “niche interest”. Other than football, most sports probably are. (I note Kevin makes no comment on swimming or gymnastics, both of which – like rugby league – had a contender in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.) But I think it’s worth noting that in the UK, rugby league consistently draws higher audience ratings than its perennial rival rugby union on pay-per-view TV.
Trump’s limitless ambitions
With reference to David Head’s letter (22 December) suggesting Donald Trump could end up with a concert hall named after him, I don’t think he would stop there. He would want a new town in his name. I can see it now – Trumpton.
Rest of the universe not pretty enough
Surely even more embarrassing than the placing of the crown on the wrong woman’s head in the recent Miss Universe contest is the fact that yet again the winner of the competition is someone from Earth.
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