The Cayman Islands, an offshore tax havenAxelspace Corporation

Last week I wrote an article about Apple and the role that young people need to play in confronting the corporation, and rejecting their immoral and exploitative practices. As it transpires, I was wrong. Worse still, I was patently and embarrassingly naïve. The scope of my article, and the action that it demanded was far too narrow-minded. The measures were conservative.

A matter of hours after this first article was published, 13.4 million documents were revealed to have been leaked months earlier to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. These documents, referred to as the Paradise Papers, detail how the world’s wealthiest, most influential and powerful figures – many in politics, entertainment and sport, who are adored and celebrated as icons – hide their wealth from tax. Perhaps the most sickening revelation is the extensiveness of the efforts that these individuals go to to do this, as well as the hypocrisy and bare-faced lies they tell.

“The poor, the deprived, the overwhelming majority of the working population in Britain, get no such tax relief”

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said that not only does Apple pay its due taxes, but it respects the “spirit of the law”. This is a lie. The Paradise Papers reveal the aggressive and sinister measures that Apple takes to prevent paying the tax that the law demands.

Meanwhile individuals like Lewis Hamilton (who has a net worth of £130 million) leverage their wealth and status to exempt themselves from paying tax. His private jet is registered in the Isle of Man as a charter jet, and then exclusively chartered to himself, through a company he owns. This means that he pays his own company to use his private jet, the company makes a marginal profit to create a façade of authenticity, with the profit then going to Hamilton.

This has saved Hamilton at least £3 million. In other words, the UK Treasury has lost at least £3 million in VAT tax receipts; the NHS has lost at least £3 million, from Hamilton alone, that it could have spent on hiring more doctors, or building new hospitals. Think of what the Treasury could do were it to receive the total tax receipts it rightly deserves.

This is the stark cost of tax evasion. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the government can’t build a new road in Scotland, or purchase new reading books for primary schools in Lancashire. Rather, the cost is borne by the most vulnerable in our society. British taxpayers have died in underfunded, understaffed and ill-equipped NHS hospitals. This is a human cost, the heaviest cost of all. I sincerely hope that Lewis Hamilton – along with the plethora of other cruel individuals – understands that his scheme is not victimless. I hope he feels remorseful for his despicable actions.

The Paradise Papers have shown that the ultra-wealthy millionaires and billionaires of this world get tax cuts every single day on the VAT of their jets, yachts, houses and cars. By spending a certain number of days in Switzerland, Monaco or the Cayman Islands, they evade paying income tax on the enormous salaries that they earn, which are already many, many multiples greater than the average British taxpayer could ever dream of receiving.

The poor, the deprived, the overwhelming majority of the working population in Britain, get no such tax relief. They dutifully give the Treasury the money they owe, and many can barely afford to life comfortably afterwards. They daren’t lose their job for fear of being branded ‘scoundrels’ by the Daily Mail for claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The ironic and seemingly counterintuitive fact is that money begets money. Once you reach a certain level of ultra-wealth, you can afford to hire accountants from Ernst & Young and lawyers from Appleby, firms implicated in this scandal. They are experts in the exact lettering of the law. They know how to create proxy companies to channel funds through and establish ludicrous instruments to prevent these individuals and corporations from paying tax.

The reality is that we live in a perverse society which is fundamentally and structurally arranged to benefit the rich, at the expense of everybody else. This is not a Jeremy Corbyn soundbite. This is empirically the case. If you don’t believe me then just google ‘Paradise Papers’ and make your own mind up. Or the Panama Papers. Or Wikileaks. Or the HSBC files. My generation’s lifetime will be defined by this challenge. It is a struggle not for equality, but for basic fairness, honesty and transparency. At its heart, this is about the application of the law, the very basic principle that justice applies equally to everybody. Nobody is exempt.

The global rich continue to dominate our economy, society and politics. They are driven by an unquenchable greed – enough is never enough. The fact that they already have everything they want, and then some, doesn’t matter. It’s not about the ability to buy another jet or house. It’s about power.


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A truism of history is that money equates to power, and this is true all over the world, even in the powerful yet malleable ‘mature’ democracies that have emerged in the past two centuries. The combination of this alongside the globalised, financialised economy that reaches every corner of the globe makes our fragile planet a playground for the ultra-rich.

My generation has been lumped with the most almighty and foreboding of tasks. We have to fundamentally and radically amend the international system: the way states work with one another and the way that individuals can operate entirely under the radar. Cooperation and unity will save our planet from the environmental destruction which will be brought about by the unchecked influence of the super-rich. A zero tolerance approach to the financial elites who continue to have total disregard for anybody but themselves will do much to pull society back from the precipice.

The injustice is infuriating. You should be angry

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