by Nick Eden-Green
Canterbury City Council, quite rightly, is asking DSG Retail to pay the business rates it owes following its departure from premises at the corner of Burgate and the Longmarket.
It is inexcusable that DSG is trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities. Indeed, it is even more inexcusable to hide behind a charity, Computers 4 Africa, to claim business rates relief. All power to the council’s elbow in getting back the £286,000 we are due and in naming and shaming them.
Let us be quite clear about this. Broadly speaking, tax evasion is as bad, if not worse, than common theft. It also reflects directly back onto us as residents. If this £286,000 is not paid, we, residents will have to pay it through our council tax.
Of course, the council is rightly exercised over this and asks DSG Retail to examine its collective conscience and cough up.
However, Canterbury City Council needs to inspect its own conscience too.
For example, as a councillor, I have been issued with an iPad. It is made by Apple, a company notorious for international tax fiddling. The council has also increased its use of Google products. It is another major tax avoider.
If the council is going to get sanctimonious about tax avoidance – and I very much hope they are – then they need to put their own house in order too.
Personally, I never go to Starbucks, never use Amazon, don’t own anything made by Apple, would never shop at any of Sir Philip Green’s establishments and will do my damndest to avoid any company that fails to pay fair taxes, or worse still, exploits charities, tax loopholes and fancy accounting practices.
I freely admit that sometimes I have no option, so widespread is this form of international fraud. But I do my best.
If everyone paid their fair share, we would either end up with far better public services or we would pay a lot less tax. We might even end up with both.
So by all means name and shame the cheats and tax evaders but please ensure that you don’t patronise them as well. It adds to their profits which we, in effect, have to subsidise out of our own taxes.
If we all voted with our feet we might be better off!
Nick Eden-Green is a former Lord Mayor of Canterbury and has represented Wincheap ward for the Liberal Democrats since 1999