Topshop faces protests over Sir Philip Green tax avoidance claims

by Nick Huber

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30 Nov 2010

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Topshop Oxford Street

SIR PHILIP GREEN, the retail billionaire and efficiency adviser to the government, is to become the target of a nationwide campaign by protesters opposed to government cuts and alleged tax avoidance.

High street stores belonging to the businessman's group, including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, will be among those that protesters focus on in the run-up to Christmas, The Guardian reported.

Plans to disrupt Arcadia Group stores were devised by UK Uncut, a fast-expanding group of activists who have closed down more than 30 Vodafone shops in the past six weeks by mobilising through social networks, the newspaper said.

The protest group started up when activists decided to target Vodafone on 27 October, claiming that the company had avoided £6bn in tax, an allegation denied by Vodafone. The protest, organised through Twitter, went viral and over some weeks more stores closed.

About 20 UK Uncut activists met several times before deciding to make Green a target. They plan to call on activists to approach shops in the Arcadia Group, as well as Vodafone, from Saturday. They intend to start by congregating at Green's flagship store, Topshop, in London's Oxford Circus.

Activists hope a campaign against Green's retail empire will drive a wedge between David Cameron, who selected him to review efficiency in Whitehall, and the prime minister's Lib Dem partners, who are calling for action against tax avoiders, The Guardian added.

Green's document, published in October, reported "shocking" wastage in the government's procurement strategy. However, his suitability as a government adviser was questioned because of his alleged tax avoidance.

The businessman banked the biggest pay cheque in corporate history in 2005 when his Arcadia fashion business, which owns Topshop, paid a £1.2bn dividend. The record-breaking payment went to his wife, Tina, who lives in Monaco and is the direct owner of Arcadia. Because of this arrangement no UK income tax was due on the gain.

Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK, estimated Green saved £285m by paying the dividend to his wife, The Guardian said.

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