A small town in South Wales is registering its independent businesses as offshore companies to demonstrate how flawed they believe the British and international tax systems are – with a surprising amount of success. Joel Flynn went to Crickhowell to see how local businesses are trying to level the playing field.
Welsh town goes “offshore” in tax protest
Deep in the Welsh valleys of Powys, at the foot of the Black Mountains, lies a town that may soon not be in Wales at all.
Crickhowell is home to just a few thousand people, but they want changes in British tax law.
At the Number 18 cafe, proprietor Samantha Devos is trying to make waves.
She and other local business owners reckon they’ve found a way to set themselves up “offshore” – mimicking the methods of multi-nationals who use foreign companies to pay less tax in Britain.
All part of their “Fair Tax Town” initative – a protest against those not paying their share.
SOUNDBITE: Number 18 Cafe Proprietor, Samantha Davos, saying (English):
“It’s to make tax fair. That’s it. It’s simple. We just want a level playing field with the big corporations. We want them to pay their tax too.”
Sam and her Crickhowell colleagues have just taken part in a documentary following their tax planning.
It’s a scheme they haven’t implemented yet though.
Instead they want the government to do more about corporate tax avoidance.
Steve Lewis is another local business owner.
SOUNDBITE: Black Mountain Ventures Managing Director, Steve Lewis, saying (English):
“Why do people like me have to play by the rules, pay our tax on time, pay to the full amount, and yet Facebook is allowed to negotiate what they pay in tax, usually over a five to ten year period where they’re usually two-ing and fro-ing.”
The list of companies accused of tax avoidance reads like a who’s who of big business.
Starbucks has been accused of paying no tax on 1.2 billion pounds worth of sales since 2009.
And Amazon, Apple, and Google are all the subject of tax investigations
Tom Bergin is a tax expert at Reuters.
SOUNDBITE: Reuters Correspondent, Tom Bergin, saying (English):
“It’s an enormous number of tools that are available to the tax planner, and of course that’s one of the challenges that governments face as they try and clamp down on tax avoidance.”
Crickhowell businesses are also angry at the government for not doing more.
Some argue it may even be complicit in helping companies avoid tax.
Many elsewhere in the country will be watching this Fair Tax Town keenly – to see if their bite really is as bad as their bleat.