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Tax protest mars U2 Glastonbury gig

27th Jun 2011
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Violence broke out at Glastonbury Festival on Friday night after members of direct action group Art Uncut clashed with security staff over U2’s tax status.

Security guards were quick to stamp out a planned demonstration to release a 20-foot balloon emblazoned with the message "U PAY TAX 2?"

Members of the UK Uncut offshoot complained that security guards had used "heavy-handed" tactics to suppress the peaceful protest.

Art Uncut has since issued a statement on its blog:

"If they can get away with it, the wealthy establishment tend to hire heavies to crush dissent…We wanted a dialogue with U2, on an issue that is crucial for international development. Instead we got heavy-handed security tactics; our highly visible expression of conscience was pulled down after just a few minutes – where are the festival's radical roots now, we ask?"

The Irish rock band has been criticised for its "convoluted" tax affairs after moving its commercial operations to the Netherlands in 2006, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax.

Art Uncut says that U2's decision to move its operating company (U2 Ltd) to the Netherlands is depriving Ireland of tax revenues at a time when money is desperately needed.

The group maintains that their action was crucial to “get people thinking about the ethics of taxation, and the relationship between tax and development".

Art Uncut also held a separate "Bono pay up!" protest in Kentish Town over the weekend including talks by John Christensen, director of Tax Justice Network, and Maurice Glasman, a leading proponent of the 'Blue Labour' movement.

Replies (13)

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
27th Jun 2011 22:16

Does the U2 bashing ever stop in the UK Media


I have been a U2 fan since I was kid.  I saw them play in the Dadelion Market.  U2 have for years and still do give loads of money to charity.    I am not sure why this article is been printed by the accounting web as it implies they have broken the law, which they have not, or is just to knock down someone who is successful.  There has been anti U2 statements all weekend.  The manager Paul McGuiness made a wise business decision.  They could have lost it all down to Bertie and his rich friends in Ireland lining their pockets. 

Why do the Uk tax uncut go after the British Celebs there is plenty of choice.

 Its sad that a man who bothered to speak up gets slated.  He has never asked any one for their money. Even though the British Media keep on saying he does.  I have been to loads of the concerts and never once asked for money.  He has highlighted that there are people suffering in the world and as done a lot for Amensty .  

 They have made a business decision like any other business.  They have given millions to Irish Schools and they also have to pay tax were they earn the money.

 I am from Ireland and I hate to say this but the Irish where not to bothered about looking after their younger generation during the good times .  My sister and her friends in Ireland could barely afford to rent 4 32 year olds sharing a house , never mind  buy during this greed. They were more interested in making money on property and leaving the next generation is a mess.    

As a big Rugby fan I remember been gutted when I saw that it was the Bank of Scotland sponsoring our Rugby team .  It felt like we had sold our souls to the RBS and Bank of Scotland in Ireland.   Ireland will be a great country again and still is. Hopefully it will learn that the greed nearly destroyed everything about my country. 

  Why should they let the Irish Government who in my view where seriously corrupt , squander their hard earned money. Its better that they give it directly to good causes.  Beartie Adhern would have given it to the Anglo Irish Bank anyway to help his friends out like  Sean Fitzpatrick.  The Irish Government were aware of the situation .  Beartie Adhern even suggested at one that the naysayers should commit sucide in 2007.  Parts of the Irish media tore him apart for this comment , people where already starting to lose their homes and values with all the Ghost towns with building work unfinished.

I noticed this article does not mention about all the UK Artists who moved their money over to Ireland over to take advantage of the tax laws in Ireland.    

As a very big U2 fan .  I would have deflated their balloon if it obstructed the view of my favourite band .  The one thing that stands out about U2 is the low profit on the tours because of the high wages .  After 30 years the 5 of them are still together including Paul McGuiness .  They have the same crew , same staff , since they started.  I think a few business in UK and Ireland could learn from the loyalty U2 show their road team and people who work with them.


- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

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By Robert Lovell
28th Jun 2011 11:57 response

Thanks for your comments, Sarah and we’re sorry if you feel has jumped on the anti-U2 bandwagon. However by presenting a report about such a high-profile protest does not mean that we support the unerlying sentiments; it’s more a case of thinking the incident is worth noting.

While many AccountingWEB members would like to deny that there is any problem with legal tax avoidance, it is a very hot political topic and within HMRC precisely because of the continuing protests of groups like UK Uncut.

Whenever tax protests become a mainstream headline topic, we will continue to report them precisely because they provide an opportunity for professionals to consider the implications and share their views on the subject. Thanks for adding yours here, and for the insights into the inner workings of both the Irish economy and U2.

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By listerramjet
28th Jun 2011 13:10

Hmmm Robert - strange response

"While many AccountingWEB members would like to deny that there is any problem with legal tax avoidance, it is a very hot political topic and within HMRC precisely because of the continuing protests of groups like UK Uncut."

What a strange stataement.  Tax avoidance is legal - so why would you say "legal Tax avoidance"?  And what would "many AccountingWEB members" want to deny?  UK uncut might want to promote a moral crusade but most of AccountingWEBs readership are more interested in the more mundane matter of dealing with the practical problems of taxation.

HMRC has a charter to collect the tax which Parliament legislates. It has no political agenda, and nor should it. 

very strange comment.

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28th Jun 2011 13:12

ONE foundation - anti-poverty organisation ...

No doubt the press is biased but essentially there must be some basis on fact - otherwise litigation would be flowing!

No smoke .... and of course it could argued that he was not involved in the day to day operation - nevertheless does not make a very edifying situation


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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
28th Jun 2011 14:59

It is a worthwhile subject to discuss

Hi Robert 

Thank you for the points raised .  I was trying to highlight that it not just one band .  Which is why the subject should be discussed further. 

I just feel that the subject of Tax avoidance needs to be discussed a bigger picture then one band.  In the big anti cuts march the same movement campaigned against other businesses .   i was listening to the Vine show  giving a list of all the charity donations this company gives.  Uncut members in my book had not given the two sides of the story.  

Hence I was trying to highlight that U2 had given to charity for the Irish Schools .   I do have a problem with tax avoidance but it needs a bigger discussion.  I have a problem with the Irish and British Government bailing out the banks and people like Sean Fitzpatrick .    I think its unfair that these protestors can say want they like with out a proper discussion

There are many artists in the UK used the Irish tax system with 0% taxes for Royalties. 

JC nobody is saying they did not move the loyalties part of the business to the Netherlands to reduced their tax bill.  Any accountant like Paul McGuiness  would give this advice.  It is not against the law .   The uncut are trying to imply they are breaking the law.   U2 don,t need to bring them to court, anyone around U2 knows their work. 

In the terms of the moral argument . I am pointing out that U2 have given money to many charities and Community projects .  I am pointing out that I glad the Irish Schools got the money directly , rather then the Irish Government squandering millions to help out their friends in banks like Sean Fitzpatrick.


-- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

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29th Jun 2011 07:28

U2 Bashing or Blinkers ....

@sarah douglas

The real issue with Bono is not the 'self-appointed' sermonising about poverty in Africa but the fact that there is a massive conflict between what he preaches and his business interests; obviously hoping that no-one will notice the massive disparity between what he says and does

'.. Bono’s ethical fashion house, Edun, has shifted production from Africa to China. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the fact that Edun was set up to create jobs and alleviate poverty in Africa ..'

Furthermore, as the previous link referred - Bono’s anti-poverty ONE foundation received $14,993,873 in donations from philanthropists in 2008, of which just $184,732 was distributed to three charities with more than $8 million being spent on executive and employee salaries.

These are the actions that encourage a bad press and demonstrate U2 as being completely devoid of social responsibility when it comes to their own affairs. Unfortunately one cannot separate the public/private faces especially when Bono has chosen to set himself up as the 'global conscience' ram himself down everyone’s throat!

Failing to recognise things for what they are and trying to pass it off as 'U2 Bashing' is surely taking a blinkered approach to reality

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
29th Jun 2011 09:26

JC no problem with discussion

Hi Jc

I read your link ,and are aware of that story, but again it is one sided journalism .  Of course the issue should be discussed providing it is in a balanced argument .  There is no discussion in the article.

Lets look at all the corruption in charties and not just aim the discussion at one band .  Why don.t we question Oxfam for example .  I think you will find little of the £1 goes to charity.  Thier offices and staff bills are somthing else as for the cars they have.  Charties status which in some cases is questionable .  

-- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

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By andy sutcliffe
29th Jun 2011 09:34

Tax protest mars U2 Glastonbury gig

no it didn't

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29th Jun 2011 10:18

Discussion on facts? ....

@sarah douglas

The crux of the matter is that Bono has chosen to adopt a high profile stance in respect of poverty - at which point he should be 'whiter than white' and I am afraid the 'everyone does it why pick on me' approach simply does not hold water. This is the point - it is not alright because everyone does it and demonstrates a morality that is way off beam from someone who claims to the arbiter of all things good

These articles were reporting facts and as such there can be little dispute on what happened. However, unfair you may regard the lack of discussion on wider matters they were specific factual instances and as such did not warrant a far reaching dialog (justifying his actions because they are an industry norm) because it would have been out of context

The very fact that your comments include '.. Lets look at all the corruption in charties and not just aim the discussion at one band ..' indicates that you yourself believe that something is not right with the situation and have indicated that corruption may be at the root of things

Nevertheless I do agree with you on some of the wider issues of charities - 

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By zxcvb
29th Jun 2011 11:26

Tax protest mars U2 Glastonbury gig?????

This press release is the first I'd heard of any protests, having watched a lot of the weekend coverage from Pilton??

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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
29th Jun 2011 12:38

All business makes profits from charties especially the Media.


Firstly I am not saying that I think U2 have done something corrupt.  If they have broken the law, then yes it should be looked at.  As it is the only thing suggested in that article is the 8 million has gone on salaries , which tax will be paid on in the country of earnings .   It is still not against the law to pay large salaries.  I might not agree with it but it is not against the law. If the donators are unhappy with the situation then they will stop donating.  It is up to the donators who they donate to. (First Paragraph added to post ) 

I maybe old fashioned and have many discussions with people.  I tried to find out from charties exactly how much of £1 goes to Charity.   So yes I do think there is an issue.   I actually would like to believe that my whole £1 went.

I do a lot of work for charity and local community and I don,t charge for my time as I believe it is a charity. 

My husband made a point in order to get the staff for people into oxfam and others they need to pay good wages and have massive budgets for advertising.  This happened years ago and yes I wish this had never happened as it has made people less likely to help genuine charities .  I do understand things cost money but what degree.

For example JC all the major charties in the Uk Pay huge amounts to design agencies for the websites and tv campaigns, networking events. These companies are making a profit on charties and not all providing the service at cost price with no profit .  In fact the media makes huge profits from charities and eat a huge amount of the Charities budget.  

All the tv companies charge huge amounts of money for media space in the press and the tv.  Hence why I am picking on the media as they are one of the first lot that should look at the moral issue .  Those in a glass house should not throw stones.  Yes Bono has set him self up.  I am not sure which is better though the one that shouts the loudest or the ones that take the money without issue.  I have no doubt that the big media companies pay out for advice how to make their companies tax efficient.

Anyone of us as Accountants or business could be reaping the awards from clients that have done paid work for charities, so we also need to look at own roles as well.  It now becomes difficult to throw stones. 

 I am not making the  moral judgement on any business with out knowing their values , but it is a question that needs to be asked if the media is going to used to question others on paying their tax and the moral issue.   But yes I would love this whole issue could be looked at in regards to every business and peoples attitude.

I don,t expect business do the work for free as companies need to make money, but it means it is wider issue.  

Yes I do think this discussion should be had, but it should not be focussed at just one group of people .   I might be wrong and I stand corrected but there was no article when they campaigned in the anti cuts  march against other business. It may be in the charties discussion group which I will have a look at JC with the link that you provided Thankyou.

 More importantly I think it is very important issue that does and should be discussed, which I think we agree on.

-- Kind Regards [email protected] Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

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By DBlood
30th Jun 2011 18:28


HMRC has a charter to collect the tax which Parliament legislates. It has no political agenda, and nor should it.


Posted by listerramjet on Tue, 28/06/2011 - 13:10


If you believe that you will believe anything.  HMRC are under massive political pressure to collect as much tax as possible by any means possible. This started under Brown and has continued. 

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By colinhigginson
01st Jul 2011 00:55

Agendas, agendas.

JC, this was all addressed nearly a year ago with One's response:,people,news,bono-one-campaign-charity-we-do-not-waste-money-this-is-how-we-spend-it

We can all criticise what he does, and many love doing it, truth is at least he gets off his jacksy to do something. Who's to say that the £m's saved in tax is not directly put back into community projects and therefore cutting out the middle man.

I dare say his pontifying does get on some people's nerver, but I'd sooner have it that way than, say Phil Collins, or worse still, the walking cash machine band The Rolling Stones - I remember about 5 years ago Mick Jagger fell ill and they couldn't reschedule because he had had his 182 days in the UK that tax year!


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