Totally Locally was approached by a production company asking if we knew of any towns that might be interested in a cheeky new idea…. to collectively use the same tax loopholes that large corporations employ. In planning this programme, the production company had hit a brick wall trying to find a suitable town to approach so they turned to us. From a shortlist, our friends in Crickhowell in Wales were chosen – the town has a rebellious spirit and strong collaborative group using the Totally Locally mentality and had just successfully fought off plans for a supermarket chain wanting to move to their town.
In this fight against big business, small business owners feel they have major disadvantage, they are treated very differently by HMRC. It simply isn’t as strict with the large companies as they are with small ones. Amazon for example had paid 0.002% tax on £5.3bn of UK sales! The figures are quite startling: Cafe Nero hasn’t paid a penny in corporation tax since 2007, whereas the local coffee shop in Crickhowell has paid over £130k in the last 5 years. Facebook paid about £5k in the last year, less than almost all of the businesses in town had individually paid. How are they allowed to get away with this? Businesses in Crickhowell wanted to find out and see if they could level the tax playing field.
Journalist and comedian Heydon Prowse leads a local team of Jo Carthew, Steve Lewis, Irena Kovaleva, Jeff Thomas to investigate how this could be done. This involved trips to the Isle of Man to register their off-shore holding company, Amsterdam to learn about “The Dutch Sandwich”, “The Double Irish” and more! The story culminates in a visit to HMRC to ask that their newly formed company is treated the same as the large multinationals.
Chris was involved in the initial introductory stages by helping the to find a town that was bold enough to take this on! We had a long discussion with producer Tom Costello about the requirements. Tom noted afterwards that: “We’ve tried the all the business organisations, Local Authorities, Chamber of Commerce head offices, Federation of Small Businesses etc and no-one could give us any contacts. We tried you and you immediately told us of 5 towns, with names of individuals to talk to and event their mobile numbers! No-one else had anything like that trusted network! Every project has a Yoda, you are my Yoda for this project.” We knew of the teams and that they would be capable of doing this, something you can’t get from the Yellow Pages!
We were only too happy to help play our part in telling this story of how unfairly large corporations play the game and how difficult this makes it for small businesses to compete. You can watch the whole programme here:
The show obviously hit a nerve because it caused quite a media frenzy with reporting from the USA to Spain to Germany and was the Sunday Times pick of the week. It became the biggest ever read article on The Independent website and had 181,000 shares on Facebook! There are many positive reviews and interest from other Totally Locally towns (Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge and Leek) to start their own Fair Tax schemes.