Saturday, 27 October 2012

The silence of UK Uncut Legal Action

I'm still intrigued by the lack of what's going on with UK Uncut Legal Action and their case against HMRC that was due to be heard this month. To not provide any updates for a matter of months is very odd, and we are talking complete silence here, not even a "stay tuned" message. It's actually very disrespectful to those who have donated which all in all has added up to a significant sum of money. Even if there are legal reasons why they can't discuss details of the case, it doesn't preclude them from explaining the situation.

I've done some further digging on what they've been up to and there really isn't a lot apart from a couple of articles. First though, I've revisited their website and I think that it is important to highlight a few things on there:
It’s alleged that David Hartnett, the government’s top tax man, who loves to be wined and dined, met Goldman Sachs’ top brass in late 2010 and with a handshake agreed that the bank would be let off paying £10 million owed to the public purse in interest on an unpaid tax bill.
Compared to:
One of the most recent examples of this egregious practice occurred when Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs(HMRC) allegedly made a decision that allowed global banking giant Goldman Sachs to avoid paying up to £20 million in tax.
Two things here; the amounts are inconsistent and based on rumour rather than anything released officially, and to be clear, whatever the sum was related to interest on outstanding tax, not tax unpaid/avoided/whatever. There's also a bit of embellishment here as the National Audit Office in their report on settling large tax disputes states that three of the departments' top officials (unnamed) made the settlement decision, not Hartnett alone.
Our fantastic lawyers are taking on the case on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, but if we lose we are likely to have to pay HMRC and Goldman Sach’s legal costs.
Well that's not actually true given that Goldman Sachs aren't a party to the court case.

So what now?
UK Uncut will review the National Audit Office’s report Settling large tax disputes that was published on 14 June to determine if it should revise its case. It has 28 days from then to serve amended grounds on HMRC; and HMRC has until 14 September to respond. A full hearing will follow subsequently.
I wasn't aware of this but it is important, especially given that:
In relation to remedies, Simon J. indicated that there was no prospect of an order unravelling the settlement agreement.
As I've mentioned previously and UK Uncut Legal Action know full well, the dispute has been settled and Goldman Sachs will not be paying the interest that was waived. The best case that they can hope for is that the deal is declared unlawful in the court. However in the New Statesman, Tim Street, one of UK Uncut Legal Action's directors makes this statement:
Our aim now is to have the High Court declare that the agreement reached by HMRC with Goldman Sachs was unlawful. We also want the court to order HMRC to take steps to reopen the agreement it reached with Goldman Sachs about the interest owed and seek to recover that money.
Either he's being dishonest, stupid, or a bit of both - the judge refused permission for a case to quash the deal so it isn't going to happen. To not mention this whilst soliciting donations on the basis that there's a chance to get some money out of Goldman Sachs is borderline fraudulent. This is also very naughty:

So we have no idea when the court case is, if UK Uncut Legal Action changed their case in light of the NAO report, and if so, what HMRC's response was. Even if the court case does go ahead and the case is declared unlawful then so fucking what? Apart from lumbering HMRC (read: the taxpayer) with costs, nothing changes. My money is on UK Uncut Legal Action being wound up on the quiet prior to any accounts being filed.  If they wish to refute anything that I've said on this blog, elaborate on points already made, or answer questions raised, then right of reply is in the comments below.

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