Tax protesters step up protest against stores

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Protesters outside Topshop in Oxford Street, London
Image caption,
Protesters say they are also demonstrating against the coalition government's public sector cuts

Protesters against tax avoidance have staged demonstrations at shops across the UK on what is traditionally the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

UK Uncut said it held sit-down protests in cities including London, Edinburgh and Manchester against the Arcadia Group, Boots, Vodafone and Barclays.

Arcadia Group's flagship Topshop and BHS shops in Oxford Street were hit.

The wife of Sir Philip Green, the firm's boss, has been criticised for living in a tax haven.

At Topshop in Oxford Street, demonstrators sat in protest on the shop floor chanting "Green, pay your taxes".

But unperturbed shoppers were seen still hunting for Christmas presents around them.

The demonstrations follow a larger protest at the store earlier this month and incidents in October when UK Uncut picketed entrances to shops owned by Vodafone, which has also been accused of avoiding tax payments.

UK Uncut, which arranged the demonstration using micro blogging site Twitter, said Topshop's parent firm Arcadia was its main target.

Nobody from the company was available for comment.

UK Uncut said it also took action in 52 other locations on Saturday at sites including Brighton, Truro, Cambridge, Liverpool, Wrexham, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Nottingham and Oxford.

Sussex Police said two men, aged 21 and 27 and both from Brighton, were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and public order offences.

One reportedly glued himself to a branch of Dorothy Perkins - also owned by Arcadia - and the other to a BHS store in the city.

Protester Rebecca Davies, 32, said: "Over four years £100bn is expected to be lost from the public purse to tax avoidance, which could pay for so many of the cuts that will hit the poorest in our society.

"The argument that the only way to cut the public deficit is to cut public services is a lie. The coalition is ideologically smashing a public sector that supports the poorest."

The group says reclaiming unpaid tax from business was an alternative to the government's planned cuts.

Topshop owner Sir Philip is one of the UK's most successful retailers.

With a personal fortune of more than £4bn, he runs the Arcadia Group, whose fashion chains also include Burton, Evans and Miss Selfridge.

His wife Tina is the direct owner of Arcadia, and she is officially a resident of Monaco. This enabled her to gain a tax-free £1.2bn dividend in 2005.

Speaking in August about the tax status of his wife, Sir Philip told the BBC: "My wife's not a tax exile - my family do not live in the United Kingdom, it's somewhat different.

"We do pay all our tax in Britain. I think we have paid over the last five years some £300-400m in taxes on profits that have been made on our company.

"I'm a UK taxpayer, I work here every week, we employ 45,000 people in the UK and we have got a £500m payroll."

Since the election Sir Philip has been appointed by the government to look into Whitehall efficiency and he produced a report which described "staggering" wastage.

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