Campaign blog

Barclays respond on tax havens… but it dodges the big question

Chris Jordan's picture Chris Jordan Tax Justice Campaign Manager

Thousands of you have been bombarding Barclays with the challenge to clean up its act on tax havens in Africa since we launched the campaign a couple of weeks ago.

Campaigners challenge Barclays to clean up its act on tax havens in Lusaka, Zambia.
Campaigners challenge Barclays to clean up its act on tax havens in Lusaka, Zambia.
Photo: ActionAid

Until now, Barclays has been pretty quiet. But together we’ve demonstrated that the issue isn’t going to go away and Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins has just released a response. 

You can download a pdf of Barclays' full letter with our point by point response (in the yellow comment boxes - the ActionAid comments don’t show up in Google Chrome, so use a browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer), but here are the main issues... 

The good: 

“Barclays shares ActionAid’s belief that companies and individuals should pay the right amount of tax in the countries in which they generate revenue. We also agree with your statement that global banks have an important role to play as investors in Africa and in enabling other businesses to invest." 

We’re pleased that Barclays acknowledges the importance of paying tax and the role that banks play in Africa. 

The bad: 

“Any tax planning we undertake must comply with our Tax Principles…These state very clearly that our tax planning must support genuine commercial activity and be of a type that the tax authorities would expect.” 

The fact that Barclays published a set of Tax Principles earlier this year is no bad thing. But, by pointing to its Tax Principles, Barclays is dodging the main challenge we’ve put to it:

Why won't Barclays shut down its Offshore Corporate department?

Those principles obviously aren't robust enough to stop Barclays encouraging large businesses and wealthy individuals to set up in tax havens. 

Developing countries lose an estimated three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. While it continues to promote tax havens and their low tax ‘advantages’ Barclays will remain part of this enormous problem for poor countries. 

The ugly:

“Barclays does not encourage businesses to set up in any particular jurisdiction.” 

We beg to differ. We believe that public statements from Barclays such as: 

"Mauritius is the offshore financial centre of choice for India and the Sub-Saharan region… Mauritius is the experienced and established gateway for investment into Africa and Asia."

and: (In Mauritius) "There are no exchange controls thus allowing free repatriation of profits and capital with no withholding tax. There are no capital gains, death, wealth or gift taxes"

as well as: "Barclays Mauritius - International Banking caters for the banking needs of international non-resident entities and individuals, whose primary economic interests are outside Mauritius"

…all count as fairly obvious encouragement to set up in the tax haven of Mauritius! 

What next for the campaign? 

It’s clear that we need to keep up the pressure so the bank can’t dodge the big questions.

If Barclays really is committed to taking a responsible approach to tax, why won't it close down its Offshore Corporate department?

Photo: @ActionAid

Live Blog: Lobbying Bill Lobby of Parliament

Claire Donner's picture Claire Donner Digital Campaigner

Today ActionAid is in Westminster with a variety of other organisations calling for vital amendments to the Lobbying Bill to protect our ability to campaign to tackle the causes of global poverty. You can follow the event live in the blog below. Join us in our call for essential amendments to the Bill.

Lobby on the Lobbying Bill!

Lucy Hurn's picture Lucy Hurn Biofuels Campaign Manager

We are at a crucial stage of the Lobbying Bill campaign to stop a Bill going through parliament that could limit our ability to campaign together and fight poverty around the world. And we need your help again to get the Bill changed - please join us at the Big Lobby! 

ActionAid campaigners call for changes to the Lobbying Bill
ActionAid campaigners demand changes to the Lobbying Bill
Photo: Lucy Hurn

By raising our voices together we succeeded in getting the government to agree to pause the passage of the Bill through Parliament. On the 10th December a new report from the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement (the body set up to scrutinise the bill because Parliament was rushing it through too quickly) will be released with recommendations on how the Bill needs to change. The Commission is backed by over 60 campaigning organisations, including ActionAid. In order to ensure we can still campaign together in the future we really need MPs and Lords to support these proposed changes to the Bill.

What you can do:
Come to the Big Lobby on the 10th December – join us at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at 11.30 to meet with your MP and Lords and make your voice heard.

Can’t make it to the Big Lobby? 
If you use twitter please tweet at your MP asking them to support the recommendations in the report, or email them to let them know your concerns.

What to do if you’re planning to come to the Big Lobby:

1. Let us know you’re planning to come by emailing campaign@actionaid.org. We will send you out the lobby briefing guide shortly. There will also be a briefing on the day at 11.30.

2. Write to your MP or members of the House of Lords (Peers) and ask for a meeting on the 10th December. See template email below.

  • You can find contact details for your MP here.
  • Lords (or peers) aren’t assigned to particular constituencies so you can write to any Lords you want – you can find their contact details here. Labour Peers are already on side so please focus on meeting Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Cross-Bench or Spiritual Peers (although feel free to thank Labour Peers for their support).  Make sure you don’t just focus on those at the top of the list.  We need lots of Peers to be approached!
  • Ask them to meet you at the Big Lobby event between 1:30 and 2:30 in Committee Room 4 in Parliament. If they can’t make this time, you can still meet at another mutually convenient time after 12.30.

3. Let us know what response you get.

4. Whatever response you get, please come along on the day anyway. We’ll be calling MPs on the day to get them to come down, and there will be plenty of Peers you can meet.

5. Please arrive at 11.30 for a Supporter Briefing on the 10th from 11.30-12.30 in the Wordsworth Room, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, just opposite Parliament (Broad Sanctuary, London,SW1P 3EE) which will give you the opportunity to hear more about the Bill and the recommendations from the Commission.

We look forwards to seeing you on the 10th, and thanks for your support – it’s vital in helping us ensure we can continue to campaign together and fight poverty around the world


Sample email to your MP/ Peer:

Dear Xxxx (Remember to use the correct way of addressing a Peer)

I am an ActionAid supporter and I am passionate about the work they do.  I am also passionate that, as a campaigner, I should be able to work through civil society organisations such as ActionAid to campaign on the things that matter to me, especially during the important year before an election.

Ahead of amendments being made to the Lobbying Bill in December,  I would like to meet with you to show how important campaigning is to ActionAid’s work to support the world's poorest people. 

I will be in London on 10th December alongside the supporters of many other organisations from across the political spectrum to show our support for civil society and the important role it plays in our democracy.  I would appreciate an opportunity to have a brief meeting with you after 12:30pm on that day. Please let me know if you would be available.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Xxxx

ActionAid Supporter

Christmas is the perfect time to ask Barclays to clean up their act on tax havens in Africa. In a few weeks time Santa could be paying Barclays a visit - but have they been naughty or nice this year? You can help ask Barclays staff this question and join in the fun by ordering one of our special Christmas cards for your local branch. 

Community Campaigner Sophie Wills-Virk is taking part in our Barclays Christmas card action
Community Campaigner Sophie Wills-Virk is taking part in our Barclays Christmas card action
Photo: Jonathan Waring/ActionAid

We've had an amazing response to our campaign with over 6,500 emails already sent to Barclays' CEO. But the bank continues to promote tax havens to businesses operating in Africa - and we know that developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. This is money that should be being spent on schools, medicine, basic infrastructure. 

We want to be sure of really getting the attention of Barclays staff across the country. So we've designed a Christmas card with a picture of their CEO on the front. However much time you have, you can get involved with our campaign by delivering one of our cards to a branch of Barclays near you.

Come to a hand in event

Staff and supporters are organising hand in events across the UK. If you have some spare time on Saturday 7th December in London, you can join campaigners like Sophie (pictured) to deliver a huge Christmas card to Barclays on 14 Upper Street at 10:30am, or later at 1pm to the Barclays at 16-17 Tottenham Court Road. We'll be asking the public to sign our card and creating a festive atmosphere with fancy dress and tax themed carols.

Further events are being planned in Chester, Chiswick, Oxford, Margate and Twickenham, with possible activities in Brighton, Nottingham and Cardiff. If you live in any of these places, or if you'd like to organise an event of your own, email me at natasha.adams@actionaid.org

Or just order a card

You can order a card online. Then once you've collected some signatures to show local support, you can post it in to your local branch or hand it in to a member of staff. You can find your local branch online here

We've tried to make this action really easy, so anyone can get involved. We hope our Christmas cards will get Barclays staff all over the country talking about our campaign, making it harder for them to ignore our calls for the company to clean up its act. Please get involved if you can.

 

 

 

Why I campaign for tax justice in Zambia

Andrew Masiye's picture Andrew Masiye Zambian Activist

My name is Andrew Masiye, and I am a small time business owner from Lusaka, Zambia. I’m an active member of ActionAid Zambia Activista group and I have been involved with ActionAid for just over a year.

Zambian Activista Andrew Masiye campaigning for tax justice
Zambian Activista Andrew Masiye campaigning for tax justice
Photo: Andrew Masiye

It has been a really worthwhile time and experience to be able to be part and parcel of this campaign group and I am pleased to be campaigning together with people in the UK to stop tax injustice.

In 2012 it was brought to my attention by Action Aid Zambia, the tax injustice being practiced in Zambia by one of the multinational corporation operating in Zambia’s Southern Province of Mazabuka, Zambia Sugar Company. Zambia Sugar is owned by Associated British Foods, with its headquarters in London.

They are practicing tax avoidance which is robbing our nation of millions of dollars in taxes. Money that is desperately needed by the government to develop the nation and provide a large number of social programmes for its people.

We held a number of campaign programmes and conducted a one week “Sugar Free Week” where we were asking people not to buy and use Zambia Sugar products for a week. I also conducted a One Man Campaign on the same issue of Zambia Sugar Tax Avoidance, in residential areas of Lusaka, namely Kabulonga, Helen Kaunda and Mutendere. The campaign earned me the name “Mr Sugar.”

Our persistence with the campaigns has started bearing fruit with the introduction of a statutory instrument in Zambia meant to curb tax avoidance. The government published the Statutory Instrument in both the National and Private Print media.

Apart from the Zambia Sugar campaign we as Activista also engaged government and other stake holders to explain why some mining companies were not paying their fair share of taxes.

Last week I travelled to the UK, to speak at a Tax Justice campaigner’s conference. This was so insightful and really encouraging. To see how people from all age groups are passionate about Tax Justice has really given me a new perspective to the fight for Tax Justice.

I have learnt how to conduct what will be a successful campaign on a number of issues not just around taxes only but also other areas like poverty and inequality.

You can join Andrew in the global fight for tax justice by telling Barclays to stop promoting tax havens.

Things that make you go hmmm… Reflections from AidEx2013

Deepayan Basu Ray's picture Deepayan Basu Ray Resilience and Emergencies Policy Adviser

Last week I took part in AidEx 2013 hosted in Brussels, where the great and the good of the humanitarian and development world were displaying their shiny toys and gadgets - all intended ostensibly to provide life-saving relief to those stricken by 'disasters'. It was all a very surreal experience!

AidEx 2013
Global Humanitarian & Development Aid Event AidEx2013
Photo: Deepayan Basu Ray, ActionAid

Of course, my first thought was that every single stall should have packed their wares into containers and shipped them off to the Philippines instead. But the conference went ahead anyway. Thankfully, the Philippine Ambassador spoke up during the opening panel, and provided a sobering reminder to all gathered what exactly the point of this song and dance was.

Resilience after floods and conflict

I spoke on one of the panels at the event - on whether the Sustainable Development Goals - which came out of the 2012 Rio Summit - were a relevant mechanism to engage with the resilience agenda. I spoke on the concept of resilience – the ability to withstand sudden shocks like conflict or floods.

Specifically, I asked and attempted to answer two questions – resilience for whom, and resilience to what? ActionAid’s approach to resilience through a human rights approach framed my intervention, and I reflected on the challenges for the UN process and negotiations moving forward…. You see, pretty un-controversial.

After the panels, I walked around and browsed the various displays. There were admittedly some great examples of innovation, such as communications equipment, water purification systems, medical supplies and technologies, and shelter/housing  - but two things stuck with me.

Model example of a temporary hospitalModel example of a temporary hospital

First was the lengths to which the humanitarian lexicon was being appropriated to showcase the products on display - all for sale mind you, no freebies here. The makers of solar-powered lanterns used statements like “A light to empower women: safeguarding women and children from abuse, theft, and disease” to showcase their product.

I'm partial to a superlative every-once-in-a-while, but this type of advertising felt disingenuous. I admit I remain unconvinced that this lamp in itself is the cure-all solution/remedy to violence against women and children.

Second was the nagging feeling that conflict profiteers had encroached on this humanitarian space. Some of the displays would have been far more ‘at home’ at the London arms fair – DSEI.  For instance, I spent a fair while trying to figure out what the sellers of the Police Armoured Personnel Carriers were doing at AidEx.

The role of the private sector in humanitarian work

In fairness, the sellers claimed that this particular APC “could be converted to an ambulance…” Ditto for the bullet-riddled bright-orange pick-up truck showcasing armour and armoured glass for humanitarian vehicles!  Whereas traditional humanitarian actors would have routinely avoided these products, is the assumption that modern-day humanitarians are not so rigid?

Police armoured vehicleA police armoured vehicle at AidEx

If I had to sum up my impressions of AidEx 2013, I would have to borrow the title of a hit song from the early 1990s: “Things That Make You Go Hmmm..."

On one hand, there were many great examples of innovation that sought to meet the daily needs of people living in un-imaginable settings of devastation and loss. These need to be showcased, and celebrated – as AidEx appears to be doing. 

There were also a number of clear tensions in the way in which the humanitarian enterprise is moving. The growing formal engagement of the private sector introduces a whole set of assumptions and values that have not yet been reconciled with the humanitarian imperative to provide life-saving relief.

Like I said before – Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

Photo: @Deepayan Basu Ray/ActionAid