This is simply lies

This week, a Revenue whistleblower told me Hartnett’s tenure as the country’s top taxman is ripe for an investigation over a series of scandals that have seen giant firms such as Vodafone and GlaxoSmithKline let off paying billions in tax during a series of ‘sweetheart deals’ brokered personally by Hartnett.

The most notorious case came when it emerged in 2010 that Vodafone owed the Exchequer £6 billion in unpaid taxes. Hartnett, after a series of private meetings and with no legal representation, agreed to accept a massively reduced £1.25 billion payment — and allowed the money to be paid back in instalments over several years.


Vodafone
never did owe £6 billion. It’s quite simply untrue.

The question was, did the UK’s controlled foreign company rules apply to an EU subsidiary? The answer, no. Thus no tax was actually due.

There also wasn’t a “deal”. All agreed that any such profits from an EU subsidiary brought into the UK would be taxable at the normal rates. And that’s what Vodafone did, brought some of the money into the UK and paid tax on it.

It’s absolutely remarkable that this lie persists.

20 thoughts on “This is simply lies”

  1. It’s absolutely remarkable that this lie persists.

    Tim, given the effort that is put in to ensuring that this is repeated again and again, its persistence is wholly unremarkable. Humans just don’t spend that much time being rational.

  2. I’ve often wondered why Vodafone don’t sue for libel. My guess is that despite all the supposed anger on the street over their supposed tax dodging, it’s limited to a handful of the Middle Classes. With the average punter not giving a damn, their revenues arenas affected. But if they sue, it might be bad publicity which could hit their bottom line.

    I am more surprised about Starbucks. The allegations against them probably do affect their bottom line, I’m surprised they haven’t sued for defamation by now. They’d have every right to.

  3. This has been in Private Eye, a publication which generally deserves more respect than the Daily Mail.
    If this is ‘simply lies’ that must mean that Private Eye’s coverage of this matter is also simply lies.
    Is that really so? Simple as that?
    And if it is, does that mean that Private Eye’s coverage of other tax matters is usually rubbish too?
    Just asking.

  4. @Bart,

    The Vodafone £6bn stuff in Private Eye comes from Richard Brooks, now associated with the TJN. If you’ve seen HIGNFY and Ian Hislop’s comments on Vodafone, Google, Starbucks, Amazon, etc, you’ll see he repeats the same comments so no, in the case of taxation, Private Eye is no better than any other rag.

  5. Private Eye is a mixture of about half good stuff, half total bollocks. The problem is it is hard to tell which is the good stuff and which is total bollocks. Any story has to be judged on its individual merits.

  6. It’s difficult to tell how much fact checking Hislop himself could actually do. On the basis that he’s an English Literature graduate with no specialist knowledge, I would assume he (and the Eye generally) just hires freelance journalists who hold themselves out as experts on a particular subject. I imagine there’s more effort put into making sure that stories aren’t actionable.

  7. “If you’ve seen HIGNFY and Ian Hislop’s comments on Vodafone, Google, Starbucks, Amazon, etc, you’ll see he repeats the same comments so no, in the case of taxation, Private Eye is no better than any other rag.”

    +1

  8. Wasn’t this subject to a number of court cases which decided Vodafone didn’t owe anything to the UK tax authorities unless they repatriated it?

  9. Bart>

    PrEye sold-out years ago. You can’t trust a word they write on any subject, these days. They’re utterly credulous when it comes to bashing those they hate, and bigotedly skeptical when it comes to the reverse.

  10. PEye did not mention the Climategate e-mails. Not once.

    Such fantastic material for a supposedly satirical magazine, and not a peep.

    That was the moment I cancelled my subscription and felt shame for having had one in the first place.

  11. Private Eye’s record on climate change is indeed poor, but it has done well on other matters: Lockerbie for example.

    It would be a good thing if Tim had a subscription to Private Eye and held up some of their stories for mockery or applause. Then we could debate them.

  12. It’s up to Hartnett now. From where I sit it seems to me that Richard Murphy and the Daily Mail have libelled him. They have very clearly implied that he made sweetheart deals for personal favours. If I were him I would tear Murphy apart through the courts; I’m not him though.

  13. The allegedly right wing Sky News had five minutes of uninterrupted propaganda from some little TJN tit just now. Apparently, while the state spends 50% of GDP now, everything would be just hunky-dory if it took even more of other people’s money and spent 60 of 70%. More leeches, Doctor, more leeches!

  14. Private Eye’s record on climate change is indeed poor, but it has done well on other matters: Lockerbie for example.

    Wasn’t their take on Lockerbie to buy wholesale into the convoluted gobbledygook conspiracy theory that it was carried out by Syria but the CIA needed their support in the Gulf War and so set about framing Libya?

    Private Eye come out with some bizarre stuff, and in some ways are incredibly conservative: most issues have some rant about the closure/demolition of an old, possibly pictueresque, but utterly useless building which has stood idle and crumbling for a decade or more, complete with 6th form Trot arguments against “developers” and the implication that the taxpayer should be fleeced into the upkeep of every building they happen to like the look of.

    When I stopped reading was when I came across one of the hefty, 3-page business scandal articles in the back. The story concerned an employee of ExxonMobil who had stumbled across some conduct which was probably in minor breach of the ethics code (it wasn’t anything like murder, or the cover up of pollution, IIRC it was something like some a dodgy deal in a far-flung land). Anyway, this guy started gobbing off and Exxon told him to pipe down. He carried on, and then they offered him several opportunities to take a huge pile of cash and shut up. Eventually Exxon wheeled out the lawyers and utterly crushed him, bankrupting him in the process. For some reason, this guy thought he would bring down Exxon on his own and made the seriously stupid decision to keep spouting off after they’d given him umpteen warnings that he needed to quit. Cue Private Eye sob story about a man and his conscience, wife left him, lost house, health failing, etc. The guy embarked on a one man war against a giant oil company, what the hell did he think would happen? At no point did the article really make clear what the guy wanted, but he was offered plenty of opportunities to either shut up and remain employed, or to leave with a huge pay-off.

  15. he was offered plenty of opportunities to either shut up and remain employed, or to leave with a huge pay-off.

    But that wouldn’t have been RIGHT. Because what he / they / whoever really wanted was for evil-Oil-Company to have never done it in the first place. And, you know, if you whine about it sufficiently, in an appropriately hideously grating fashion (Avaaz may need to get involved with a totally misleading spam-run), then it NEVER WILL HAVE HAPPENED.

    Because, like, righteousness, and cuddly baby animals on tumblr and electricity baseload from unicorn farts (I was going to say “wind farms”, but that would have been taking it too far.)

  16. Tim Newman,

    Hislop’s definitely a (small c) conservative. He does these programmes, like one about old bankers, and one about the Beeching report that have a certain misty-eyed view of the past . In reality, many bankers weren’t philanthropists. A few were, but even then, that was because they weren’t getting taxed up the arse by the state.

  17. I can’t say I ever read the Eye for guaranteed factual accuracy.

    I’ve stopped reading because just isn’t funny anymore. I think it was the triumph of the self-righteous over the cynical.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *