Friday 27 February 2015

Crass Tax Fat Cats

Thomas Sutherland, HSBC Founder
On Tuesday it will be the 150th anniversary of HSBC, founded on March 3 1865 by a classically educated Scot from Aberdeen called Thomas Sutherland. Although his bank had its shady side where profits from the opium trade were concerned, I still suspect that Sutherland has been turning in his Calvinist grave this week at the nauseating extent of the tax-dodging support the current HSBC bosses have offered their rapacious clients.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has also failed to prosecute  Paul Bloomfield, a property tycoon and client of HSBC liable for TWENTY YEARS' taxes. I am not usually a fan of tough sentences, but admit that I savoured looking up the way  tax dodgers were dealt with in antiquity. In Babylon you could expect to be blinded; in Egypt, publicly flogged. Sulla made the Ephesians cough up by threatening to behead them.

Greg Wise & Emma Thompson
The actor Greg Wise, according to the London Evening Standard,  says he will pay no further tax until HSBC's criminally selfish clients pay up or face proper punishment. If we all followed Wise’s lead, it might actually work. Tax paying must be consensual for its collectors to stay in power. 

Wat Tyler, Great Briton 
Margaret Thatcher finally had to acknowledge in 1990 that The People might conceivably Refuse To Obey. Many simply did not pay the Poll Tax. This required all adults to cough up the same ££ whether they lived ten-to-a-room on a dilapidated estate, or alone in an enormous mansion. Most non-compliers filled in the hated form under pseudonyms: like many, I signed as Wat Tyler, opponent of a previous Poll Tax inflicted on peasants in 1381.

Gruesome Twosome: Flint and Gulliver 
Tax dodgers, as a species of lowlife, are congenitally tactless. Billionairess Leona Helmsley once told her housekeeper, "Only the little people pay taxes". This week, the sleek and supercilious HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver, whose basic salary is £7.8 million, and who is pictured here with his even sleeker collaborator Douglas Flint, told the Treasury Select Committee that he needed a definition of "fat cat" before he could confirm or deny that he is one. 

I would like to tell you my own definition of what zoologists would called the degenerate subspecies of Homo Sapiens called “fat cat” or Cattus Crassus, but it is unprintable. Instead I hope you will join me in wishing the executive top brass of HSBC and their clients a really lousy anniversary.

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