Protesters target Barclays over tax bill

Barclays Bank was targeted by anti-tax avoidance campaigners at the weekend after the bank revealed it paid the equivalent of just 1 per cent of its 2009 profits in corporation tax.

Barclays admitted last week it paid £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009, against a profit of £11.6bn.

The protests were organised by action group UK Uncut, which says it occupied around 50 Barclays branches.

The bank was forced to close several branches after protesters occupied branches in areas including London, Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Police were called to London’s Tottenham Court Road branch after 50 protesters descended on the office with banners saying “we are not all in this together”.

Treasury select committee member and Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna forced the disclosure about the corporation tax payment from Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond last week.

Umunna said it was “shocking” that Barclays had paid so little in corporation tax, and said that “people are going to be very angry about this.”

Under the current corporation tax system, Barclays was able to offset losses resulting from the financial crisis against future tax bills.

A report in today’s Guardian says Chancellor George Osborne has dropped plans to end the practice.

A Barclays spokesman says: “Barclays takes its responsibilities as a corporate citizen very seriously. We comply with taxation laws in the UK and in all the countries where we do business – both in the spirit and the letter. In 2010 the group paid over £2.8bn in taxes in the UK and £6.1bn globally. We have signed up to the UK Government’s code of practice on taxation, which is very clear on the obligations it places on banks to ensure they manage their tax affairs properly.
“Barclays is a large international banking group with operations in 50 countries worldwide, all of which are subject to close governance and clear disclosure. The corporate tax affairs of an organisation with the global footprint of Barclays are complex and not reducible to simplistic comparisons; any link between Barclays Group profits and the amount of tax paid to the UK government is inappropriate – there is no direct correlation between the two.”

Further protests are planned for this weekend and are set to target Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest branches, following the announcement of their results this week.