Could Vodafone have stopped almost £7 billion of welfare cuts by paying their tax bill?
As we watched through our fingers yesterday while Gorgeous George Osborne unveiled the savage spending cuts, one number in particular stood out like a sore thumb. That number was seven billion, the amount of pounds sterling that will be taken out of the welfare budget. Hmmm, seven billion.
That’s almost exactly the same as six billion, another number that has troubled us over the past month. Six billion is the amount of pounds sterling that Vodafone avoided paying to HMRC following a long and drawn-out period of negotiation between HMRC boss Dave Hartnett and Vodafone’s head of tax John Connors. Until 2007, Connors was a senior HMRC official and worked alongside Hartnett, although we’re sure that there’s nothing weird about that.
So if you, or someone you know, are receiving welfare payments (and with 500,000 public service job cuts a-coming, there’ll be even less to go around anyway) and begin to feel the squeeze once the rules are changed and entitlements are scrapped, try not to think that it could have all been avoided if Vodafone hadn’t managed to wriggle their way out of paying their stadium-sized tax bill.
Because let’s face it, when all’s said and done, that £7 billion would probably still have been cut from the welfare budget yesterday in any case.