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Posts Tagged ‘olympics’

Save school playing fields

August 28th, 2012 by

Hundreds of thousands of children could be about to see their school playing fields sold off or built over. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has scrapped key safeguards. We could have only weeks to change his mind before for sale signs start appearing.

Without playing fields it’s hard to imagine the kids of today – the Team GB of tomorrow – will ever match this year’s record Olympic medal haul. Once playing fields are sold off to private developers they’ll be gone forever.

The Government won’t want a scandal about school playing fields taking the shine off the Olympics. If enough 38 Degrees members move fast to create a big petition, we can push them to back down and bring back protections for playing fields.

We don’t have a moment to lose! Click here to sign the petition to save school children’s play areas.

School playing fields are precious for so many reasons. For lots of people, playing outside at break time helped make school a positive experience. Running around outside gets children into good exercise habits early in life. And it can help them concentrate in class the rest of the time, so they learn faster.

Too many schools already don’t have enough playing fields. We know from previous sell-offs that once open spaces are gone, it’s hard to get them back. But we also know that when 38 Degrees members come together, we can stop these kind of short-sighted plans. We did it before to protect England’s forests. Let’s come together now to protect school playing fields.

Please take 30 seconds to sign the petition.


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How effective are petitions?

August 2nd, 2012 by

A group of 38 Degrees members hand in our NHS petition

38 Degrees members deliver a petition of over 410,000 names to the NHS.

The 38 Degrees office team receive a number of queries about petitions and questions about how effective they are. 38 Degrees isn’t just all about petitions. And we certainly don’t think petitions are a magic bullet. However we do think they are an important campaign tactic, which has shown itself to be valuable part of people powered campaign.

Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Showing public support: Petitions help show how many people support a campaign and want things to change. When hundreds of thousands of people add their names to a 38 Degrees petition, it can shift the debate by proving to the media and decision makers that a campaign has public support. It makes it harder for politicians or the media to claim an issue isn’t relevant or important, and shows to them how many votes/customers they could stand to lose.

2: Supporting other campaign tactics: A petition can be a launchpad for other campaign tactics. For example they can become a focal point for hundreds of local meetings with 38 Degrees members and their MP. These can be vital face-to-face discussions that show an MP that local voters care about an issue enough to come and meet with them. It’s also possible to organise high-profile hand-ins of the petition at Parliament or a company headquarters, that can get vital national media coverage that can help build the pressure.

3: A first step towards other forms of action: A petition often acts as an entry point into a campaign first campaigning step after which signers get involved in other forms of action. 38 Degrees members who’ve signed a petition often go on to take further vital actions like emailing their MP, organising a local meeting, or donating to pay for hard-hitting adverts.

A great example of the role a petition can play in a campaign is the half-million signature on our Save Our Forests petition. It was the petition, combined with emails to MPs, walks in local woods and high-profile media coverage that helped build momentum that led to the government changing its mind about the forests sell-off. More here.

A petition was also central to our NHS campaign. Although eventually the Health and Social Care Bill was passed, there’s no question that it would have been an even more damaging law if it wasn’t for the efforts of 38 Degrees members. For example, together we forced the government to pause their plans and eventually announce some changes, as reported on Sky website last year, in “Why Tories Have NHS Jitters”.

You can read more on what people power achieved on the the Save Our NHS campaign here.

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That Olympic tax wheeze

July 30th, 2012 by

Richard Murphy

Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and economist, has written a blog about the Daily Mail’s comments on the effect of our Olympics tax-dodging campaign: 

The Daily Mail has published an article today saying:

Tax campaigners hailed it as an extraordinary victory for public pressure and a rare act of conscience from the corporate world. But an announcement from Olympic sponsors McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and GE that they would ‘waive’ 2012 tax breaks, garnering positive publicity, was not all it seemed because they were not entitled to the tax breaks in the first place.

They continue:

The pressure group 38 Degrees has mounted a huge campaign against the supposed tax breaks, getting almost 200,000 people to sign a petition calling for the sponsors to give them up. But Revenue & Customs told Financial Mail last week that Olympic sponsors did not qualify for corporation tax exemptions at the Games. ‘All sponsors that are UK resident companies will be liable to corporation tax in the normal way,’ it said.

And as example they noted:

McDonald’s UK, the burger giant’s British company, will be operating restaurants on the Olympic site. Because it is resident in the UK it cannot get the tax exemption. The same is true for Visa, Coca-Cola and GE.

Then they added, rather oddly:

Tax advisers warned that Revenue was already starting to clamp down on abuse. ‘People have misunderstood the potential of the exemption,’ said Bill Dodwell, tax adviser at Deloitte.

So what’s the true story? Well, as someone quite involved in this whole issue – having advised both 38 Degrees and Ethical Consumer on it – I’m going to suggest that the Mail have been sold a pile of tax PR by some of the Olympic sponsors and have chosen to accept it at face value. Indeed, since they called me about the story and I explained to Alex Hawkes who wrote the Mail piece exactly how I thought the exemption could be abused and he chose to ignore my comments in the piece, I am sure that is the case.

So let’s go back to basics: the Mail story is right to the extent that UK resident companies trading on the Olympic site will pay tax on their profits arising there. So of course McDonalds, Visa and Coke who will be selling on ste will be paying tax on the profits arising.

But let’s for a moment remember that profit arising is a pretty nebulous concept in these cases. For example, the profit on a burger is if you’re running a burger van the sale price less the cost of the ingredients, the cost of the labour of the person cooking it and the shop overheads. But in the case of a complex multinational things are somewhat different – as we now know from having seen the tax affairs of many US multinationals in the UK – and because the same journalist who wrote this Mail 38 Degrees story also wrote this one for the Mail in April, proving how little tax multinationals pay here in the UK. And that low rate of tax does not happen by chance: it happens because of the structuring those companies use. So things like advertising, branding rights, copyrights, intellectual property and so on are all used to shift profits around, legitimately maybe, but with little or no tax being due none the less as somehow or other those rights always seem to end up being owned in tax havens where the fees charged are not taxed.

And could the same shenanigans have been done by a multinational that set up a tax haven subsidiary which then signed a deal to sponsor the Olympics and which company then managed the resulting rights to use the Olympic endorsement world-wide from a tax free branch located in London for the duration of the games using the known UK tax exemption? Well, I think so. In fact I think the combination of having an offshore subsidiary of a multinational with a tax free branch in london for a period to exploit Olympics related activity could have been just the sort of thing many a tax department would have looked at to get a a payback on their investment in the Olympic brand. They could have even have charged for the use of the Olympic related branding to the UK based subsidiary that was taxable on sales in the Olympic park, so reducing its profits, Daily Mail, please note.

And that’s why the requests of the Olympic sponsors was to say that they would not be aplying for the exemption as a group. Some were emphatic on that and I think it fair to say others less so. I applaud those were clear.

But to say that because sales in Stratford to the public are taxed that we’ve misunderstood the Olympic tax deal is the usual, candidly patronising sort of comment that comes out on tax from multinational corporations and their advisers with the hope that the complexity of the issue will mean that the real opportunities for abuse through complex structuring of deals will be ignored. Well, I didn’t ignore that possibility and I think I was right to not do so. As a result if now  those sponsors have said they won’t abuse UK tax laws  then I think that is a definite win for 38 Degrees.

It’s a wider win too. What it shows is that decisions on tax are available to large corporates – and they can choose to abuse, or not. That’s a moral choice. It is one where those companies can be guided by ethics, not lowest common denominator excuse making linked to a mythical duty to profit maximise that does not exist in UK law, and is one where we are now demanding they make the right choices, not just on the Olympics, but regularly. And as they’ve now proven they can and will respond to that pressure let’s also be quite clear: our aim is now to keep the pressure on them to do the right thing, time after time after time.

Having said which, perhaps the Mail might like to take a consistent line next time – and not sell big corporate tax PR when it suits them to do so.

Richard also posted this blog on his website, Tax Research UK, here

What do you think about the fact that large corporates are able to abuse tax? Do you want to see more campaigning against tax dodging by big business? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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Hurray! Now what next?

July 26th, 2012 by

Asda, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Adidas, VISA… In the last couple of weeks we’ve taken on some of the most powerful companies in the world – and won! Our petition to Asda helped pressure them to increase the price they pay farmers for their milk. And together, we’ve forced them to pay their fair share of tax during the Olympics. All of the companies we targeted have now said they won’t be using the tax break open to Olympic sponsors. Read the 14 statements here.

This campaign was something new. 38 Degrees members are used to taking on the government. But this was the first time we’ve targeted big global companies. We knocked them over one by one, gaining strength with each fresh victory.

This win is more proof that when we work together, we get results. That’s why as 38 Degrees members we choose what we campaign on together. Member polls are an important part of deciding what we should focus on next. Should we concentrate on protecting the NHS and the environment? Should we be cracking down on bankers? Perhaps you have an idea of your own?

Can you take the two minute survey and help set the direction of 38 Degrees?

When 38 Degrees members first saw the tax breaks for Olympic sponsors, exposed in a piece by the magazine Ethical Consumer, it may have seemed unlikely that these heavyweight multinationals could be forced to back down. But we were successful because we used our power as customers. The same strategy worked on Asda.

The sponsors were hoping to get a big boost from their involvement with the Games. But our huge petition and the flood of activity on Facebook and Twitter had them worried. They could see it was safer to back down on the tax break than to risk a PR disaster with the very people who buy their products.

Fixing this particular tax dodge is a step in the right direction and a glimpse of what we can do – but there’s so much more to do. Recent reports suggest that the UK could be losing trillions of pounds in dodged tax every year. Should we follow up our Olympic success by keeping the focus on tax-dodging or should we be prioritising other campaigns? Perhaps we should be concentrating on tackling climate change, stopping the privatisation of the police, or protecting the BBC. Or is there something else you’d like to suggest?

Take the quick survey and help decide what we should work on next together.

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Eight down! two more sponsors give up their tax break

July 20th, 2012 by

** UPDATE ** Adidas have just confirmed they’ll not be taking the Olympic tax dodge either.

Great news! We’ve just had word from the PR teams for both BMW and P&G who have confirmed they won’t be taking an Olympic tax break!

Only a few more left to go now. Sign up and spread the word and help pile on the pressure to the remaining few sponsors to come clean.




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An expert view: Olympic Tax Dodging

July 20th, 2012 by

The Olympic sponsors logos with crosses through the ones that have given up the tax break

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Richard Murphy, Tax Expert, comments on our Olympics Tax Dodging campaign, here or read what he said below:

A tax accountant has commented on 38 Degrees Facebook page suggesting they misread the law when, working with Ethical Consumer, they began their campaign on the Olympics tax exemptions. You can read what he said here.

I don’t agree with him for many reasons. If only it were as simple as he suggests! So let me offer some reasons why I think he’s wrong to say this campaign misses the point.

First, there is the very good question of why if people are working here they should not pay tax here. Why is the Olympics, paid for by the UK taxpayer, so special that it should be tax exempt and so make no contribution back to the UK for the enormous cost of staging the event? The general principle that sports people earning in the UK pay basic rate tax on those earnings in this country – which is then offset against any tax they owe in their home country – is widely applied. So, for example, it will apply to all Wimbledon winners if not from the UK and the winner of the Open Golf if similarly not from this country. It’s the way sport and high earning sports people give back to host countries for letting them earn their income in events that usually require considerable tax subsidy. 38 Degrees are making that point with their campaign.

The same aplies to broadcasters covering the Olympics. Those broadcasters are at the Olympics in the UK – paid for by the UK – to make profit. Why shouldn’t a fair part of their profit be taxed here? The rules to attribute profit to the UK exist – but they’re not going to be applied. Why not is the fair question to ask?

And third, to claim major corporates could not exploit this opportunity for gain is ludicrous. Sure, their normally UK resident operations will pay tax here but in multinational corporations, many with hundreds or thousands of subsidiaries, the Olympics exemption would provide a perfect opportunity to make profit in the UK for companies based elsewhere and to extract that profit tax free. Any tax accountant could create such a scheme for a multinational group with little thought when all the normal rules on creating a permanent establishment in the UK have been suspended. In that case we’re asking companies to commit to not doing this. Some have. Good for them. Others have not and that leaves questions marks on what choices they’ve made.

Those choices are legitimate, of course, no one is saying anything else. But it’s also true that ethics drive tax choices, and corporate responsibility demands tax is paid in the right place. In this case tax should be paid in the UK if profits arise here – as they will on Olympics related activity – and 38 Degrees are therefore challenging those companies to make the right choices, to pay tax here on all profits arising in this country and to confirm they have.

To suggest this is a black and white issue is as a result to wholly misrepresent the nature of group tax, the ways in which groups can shift profits and the opportunities that tax havens – whether permanent or temporary like this one – give to corporations to drop profits through non-taxed loopholes. That’s what 38 Degrees are highlighting and what they’re asking for is a commitment to not exploit this opportunity. That’s fair, and wholly appropriate and consistent with what the legislation might permit. And that’s why I’ve supported this campaign.



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Six Down! One more sponsor gives up their tax break

July 20th, 2012 by

Wow! We’re nearly halfway there!

The public pressure is obviously working. The 38 Degrees office just heard from Omega, who confirmed they won’t be tax-dodging on their Olympic profits. See what they had to say:

“OMEGA can confirm that as a long-time partner of the Olympic Movement, the company will not be undertaking any sales activities within the Olympic Games site and our existing stores and retail operations will be subject to their existing tax regimes. Accordingly, we never intended to claim – and will not be claiming – any corporate tax exemption at the London 2012 Games. As the Official Timekeeper of the Olympic Movement since 1932 we are very proud of our association and the role we play in enabling the Games to be enjoyed by billions of people around the world.”

So now we need to increase the pressure on Adidas and the other sponsors to step up to the mark. Sign the petition here:


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Five down! Three more sponsors give up their tax break

July 19th, 2012 by

There’s more good news on our campaign to get Olympic sponsors to give up their tax breaks. Three more companies – Visa, GE and EDF Energy – have said they won’t be dodging taxes on their Olympic profits.

The Olympic sponsors logos with crosses through the ones that have given up the tax break

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This is another massive victory for people power. It shows that when we work together, we’re able to change the behaviour of even the biggest and richest companies in the world. But there are still nine Olympic sponsors who haven’t said they’ll be giving up their tax breaks, despite our petition with nearly 170,000 names. We need to convince them it’s time to do the right thing and pay their fair share.

How can we increase the pressure on the companies that haven’t done the right thing yet? Share your ideas below, or add them to 38 Degrees’ Facebook page.

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It’s working: Coke gives up their Olympic tax dodge

July 19th, 2012 by

We’ve had some great news on our campaign to stop Olympic tax dodging. Coca-Cola, one of the world’s biggest and most powerful companies, have agreed to pay their fair share of tax on their Olympic profits.

Just a couple of days ago, Coca-Cola were keeping quiet on the question of whether or not they were going to take up their Olympic tax break. But then our huge, people-powered campaign got started, and McDonald’s acted fast to become the first sponsor to agree not to dodge tax on their Olympic earnings.

So then we turned the full force of our campaign on to Coca-Cola. There were already over 150,000 names on our petition to the Olympic sponsors. Then thousands of people liked and shared our powerful image on Facebook and Twitter, to make sure as many people as possible heard that Coca-Cola seemed to be planning a tax dodge.

A Coke can with a campaign message about tax dodging

In just a few hours, the public pressure grew too much for Coca-Cola. They called the 38 Degrees office to say they weren’t going to take up the tax break. Then they published a statement on their website, making a public promise to pay their fair share.

So now it’s two down, and plenty more to go! Which Olympic sponsor do you think we should target next?

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Olympic Tax-dodging

July 12th, 2012 by

Olympic Tax Haven

“Loving it: Huge tax breaks for Olympic sponsors”

Imagine seeing that headline on the front of your paper in the final countdown to the Olympic opening ceremony. As the eyes of the world focus on London, this is the perfect opportunity to expose the corporate sponsors who’ll be dodging tax during the games.

The UK’s winning Olympic bid included huge tax breaks for sponsors. As a result, massive multi-nationals stand to make a tax-free fortune. Experts think the UK could be losing tens of millions.

As sponsors, these companies will be banking on loads of positive media exposure. Let’s use that to our advantage, turn the tables, and roll out a massive petition demanding they pay their fair share. If the petition is big enough, and attracts enough media attention, it could be the first step in scaring these image-conscious companies into refusing their gold-plated tax break.

Can you add your name to the petition to the heads of these big companies demanding they turn down their Olympic tax dodge?

The whole reason these gigantic companies are involved in the Olympics is for the image boost it’ll provide. A tarnished brand is their PR team’s worst nightmare. So what’ll scare them most is our huge petition being covered in the media, and high-profile hand-ins at their flagship stores. Sources tell us a few of the sponsors may already be rattled. Let’s show them their Olympic tax-dodge isn’t worth the PR damage by piling into the petition and sharing it with friends.

38 Degrees members keep on voting to tackle tax-dodging. Together, we’ve forced it onto the political agenda. Now it’s time to focus in on the companies who stand to make the biggest profits. A massive public outcry demanding that these Olympic giants pay their fair share could be the first step in putting an end to corporate tax-dodging.


The petition is working. McDonald’s have said they won’t be taking the tax break – can you help keep up pressure on the other sponsors by signing the petition now?

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