Sun Shame

February 29, 2012

The Sun is on a moral crusade. The Sun…. on a moral crusade. THE SUN! The very idea baffles me. Whilst they’re currently being investigated for paying police for stories, they’re taking the moral high ground elsewhere.
Today The Sun has said it:

CALLS on all Brits to be patriotic and report any cheats you know by calling the National Benefit Fraud Hotline

– This is in reponse to their story that benefit fraud costs the UK £1.2bn a year. The figure sounds huge, especially when written in block capitals, as it is in the Sun article. The problem is, the figure is actually tiny.

The story comes from figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions called “fraud and error in the benefit system”. What it actually states is:

The estimate for the percentage of total benefit expenditure overpaid due to fraud in 2010/11 has remained the same when compared to the 2009/10 and preliminary 2010/11 estimates, at 0.8%

– £1.2bn is actually representative of just 0.8% of the total benefit expenditure. If the total benefit expenditure was a £1 coin, less than 1p would be lost to fraud.

In December 2010, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee found that HMRC happily ignored Corporate tax avoidance worth up to £25bn. Vodafone was allowed to write off its tax bill of £6bn. Rather coincidentally, the head of tax policy at Vodafone is a man named John Connors. Connors used to work at HMRC and enjoys a close relationship with current head of HMRC, David Hartnett. They go for cosy lunches together, and then they casually wipe £6bn from the Nation’s second largest company on the Stock market’s tax bill. Perhaps the “scroungers” mentioned by the Sun should give Hartnett a ring and go out for lunch. All would be fine then.

According to the tax justice network’s report into tax abuse, the figure of £25bn, when added together with tax evasion (the likes of Labour candidate for Mayor; Ken Livingstone accused of using a tax loophole to save up to £50,000) costs us £69bn.

Corporations involved in widespread tax avoidance love Hartnett THAT much, he is the most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant in the Country, having been treated to wonderful Corporate hospitality a total of 107 over three years. I’m sure they do it just because he’s a nice guy. That must be it. I’m sure of it. How many times have you been asked “who would your ideal dinner guest be if you had a choice?” I always answer “Not Oscar Wilde, not John Lennon, not Christopher Hitchens, not Mohammad Ali… none of them…… give me David Hartnett any day of the week! What a guy.

Another company that enjoyed the dining company of Hartnett, was Goldman Sachs. It will come as no surprise that Hartnett personally shook hands with Goldman Sachs officials on a deal that waived £10,000,000 interest on a tax avoidance program that went wrong. If you’re a single mum struggling to raise kids, and are taking a few quid more than you’re legally entitled to, the Sun want you dead. If you’re a multimillionaire company that believes it owes nothing to anybody and actively breaks the law; as long as you take the head of HMRC out to lunch, you’re perfectly fine.

Like everything The Sun says and does, hypocrisy is at the apex of this story. News International owns The Sun. When its CEO Rupert Murdoch is not defending allegations of hacking the voicemail of a dead school girl, or bribing police for stories, it used to spend its time losing legal battles over unpaid taxes. In 2009 the Australian capital territory won its battle to reclaim $77 million in taxes and penalties owed by News Corporation. When News Corp moved its headquarters to the US, through tax loopholes, it deprived Australia of millions of $ in unpaid capital gains taxes.

The Sun has decided to block use of its “beat the cheat” picture on its article. It can be found here.
But I thought I’d create my own.