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Vodafone tax avoidance row intensifies, things get nasty

Things are definitely hotting up between Vodafone and its detractors as an anti-austerity group co-opts a Twitter hashtag to harass the telecoms giant.

No one likes to think that large multinationals are getting away with murder when it comes to avoiding their corporation tax. Tax avoidance is a massive hot-button issue right now, especially since so many small-scale freelancers and contractors feel harried by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for IR35 compliance and other issues, yet HMRC has remained stodgily silent when it comes to whether or not there’s actually a £6 billion shortfall in Vodafone’s 2010 tax bill; in addition, people get even more cross when they find out that the telcoms giant didn’t pay a single penny in 2011 either.

UK Uncut has been on Vodafone’s case for months now, staging protests inside and outside mobile phone shops across the UK. Now, the anti-austerity group has taken it one step further by co-opting the #VodafoneAGM hashtag – originally for promoting the Annual General Meeting for the telecoms company – and filling it with accusatory language about how Vodafone has been avoiding paying their fair share.

For its part, Vodafone has fired back remarking how everyone’s just being stupid and that the reason it’s not been paying any tax lately is because it’s been sinking massive amounts of revenue into infrastructure improvements for its British networks. The Government exempts Vodafone from paying corporation tax on these funds since it’s benefiting the entire country, the telecoms giant claims, so it’s a win-win for everyone as the mobile carrier can increase availability and speed on its voice and data lines throughout the UK.

So who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong here? Are anti-austerity activists overreacting at this point or is Vodafone simply using a legal loophole to avoid paying tax on its investments? If you ask me, I couldn’t care less as to who’s in the right. I will say that the current row, as it gets more heated, is absolutely entertaining. However, I will say this: if Vodafone is actually not doing anything wrong either legally or ethically and it’s still garnering all this hate, it’s just proof positive that people are unrelentingly stupid when they get together in large groups.

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