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Unite in tax dodging row, tries to explain its shenanigans

Here’s one for the record books: it turns out public sector union Unite has been found to be skimming off the top when it comes to paying its fair share!

Actually it’s a bit worse than that, according to new research: apparently the union hasn’t paid even a single penny to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs for two years in a row, despite the fact that it made some £5.78 million in investment income over that time. The revelation has left Conservatives up in arms; accusations have been flying steadily and Ed Miliband has been facing some withering fire from Bob Neil, Conservative Vice Chairman.

Of course, Unite paints a completely different picture altogether – one that has nothing to do with tax avoidance. Calling the Conservative-backed accountancy research nothing but a ‘sorry attempt’ to discredit the union, a Unite spokesperson said that the reason there was no corporation tax paid was because of the rather robust benefits the union offers its members – and that the cost of these benefits, which are borne by Unite and not the Government, have entitled it to an exemption in this way.

Well this is all well and good – and I’m sure there’s plenty of politically-motivated backstabbing going on between Labour and Tories alike – but somehow I’ll wager that the truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle. For what it’s worth, there could very well be some glad-handing going on between the Exchequer and Unite right now, but I don’t know if it can really be categorised as tax avoidance no matter how badly the Conservatives want to do so.

It seems that cries of ‘tax avoidance’ or ‘tax evasion’ have become a rather easy way to derail a rational conversation and instead inject rhetoric and political debate. It’s a tactic that’s being used to distract us from the real issues that the Government refuses to address: no matter how much revenue HMRC might be missing out from sources such as Unite, something tells me that there’s shedloads more money being looked over that’s being funneled overseas thanks to multinationals that have been encouraged to make use of tax loopholes in return for setting up shop here in the UK. I know it sounds cynical and perhaps a bit too much like what one of those conspiracy theorist blokes would say, but let’s be serious here: how much tax revenue has the UK missed out on over the years that firms like Starbucks and Amazon been operating within our borders?

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