Billboard campaign to target avoiders and evaders of tax


BRITISH CAMPAIGNERS seeking action against tax avoiders and evaders are planning a major billboard campaign after several Conservative-leaning newspapers refused to carry full-page advertisements from them yesterday.

Using an image of chancellor George Osborne, who is described as “The Artful Dodger”, the 38 Degrees campaign group claimed £120 billion in tax revenue is being lost every year in the UK to dodging and avoidance.

The advertisements, which allege Mr Osborne himself avoided £1.6 million worth of inheritance taxes on money received from his father by using off-shore trusts, were published in the Guardian, the Independentand the Independent’s 20-page publication, the i.

However, the Daily Telegraphrefused to publish the advertisement when it finally saw the text, while the Daily Mail“upped its quote hugely, despite having agreed prices”, 38 Degrees spokesman David Babbs told The Irish Times.

The Metrofree-sheet said it had stopped plans to publish because “Conservative HQ are on the attack over the ‘tax dodger’ claims”, said its spokesman.

“Obviously we don’t want to run anything that could be viewed as libellous.”

The action by 38 Degrees comes on foot of protests by UK Uncut, an internet campaign group which has targeted shops owned by billionaire Philip Green’s Arcadia group to highlight a tax-free £1.2 billion dividends payment made to his Monaco-based wife.

Treasury minister Justine Greening was faced with a copy of one of the adverts when she appeared on Sky News yesterday morning and 38 Degrees is seeking donations for a national billboard campaign in coming weeks.

“It shows that our tax-dodging campaign is touching a raw nerve, and that those papers most supportive of the Conservative-led government are willing to exercise editorial control even over advertising,” said Mr Babbs.

Last October, Channel 4’s Dispatchesprogramme reported £4 million of Mr Osborne’s father’s fortune will pass to him without facing inheritance taxes through the legal use of trust funds.

Mr Osborne has accepted that the trust funds have been used in this way.

“You would hope that the chancellor would be talking to tax lawyers to find out ways of closing down tax loopholes, rather than using them himself for his own benefit – even if it is legal,” said Mr Babbs.

The controversy erupted on the day when VAT rates in the UK rose to 20 per cent, a move that will generate £13 billion in extra taxes, but which many opponents argue will discriminate against the poor.