Barclays Challenged on Tax at AGM

On 28th April Revd David Haslam, the Convenor of the Methodist Tax Justice Network (MTJN) addressed tax issues at Barclays’ Annual Meeting at the Royal Festival Hall. He began by reminding the several hundred shareholders present that the week had seen the start of the trial of Antoine Deltour, the Luxembourg civil servant who had blown the whistle on the tax dodging engineered for over 350 international companies by the Luxembourg Government and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC). He said, ‘We thank God for whistle-blowers, and I trust any employee revealing tax avoidance by Barclays would be welcomed by the Bank, in the light of Barclays’ stated desire to “act with integrity in everything we do”.’

He then asked if the numbers of subsidiaries in tax havens was continuing, showing a current list of 222, with 45 in the Cayman Islands, 28 in Luxembourg, 24 in Jersey, 23 in the Isle of Man, and so on. ‘Hopefully,’ he said, ‘within a couple of years all of them will have been closed down so we can put out of business these iniquitous practices which cheat honest tax-payers like most people here’.  Mr Haslam stated that good banks are an essential element of society and he hoped the new CEO Jes Staley would see this process as part of the ‘fundamental repositioning’, he had referred to in his earlier address.

In response Barclays new Chairman, John McFarlane, said the Bank is closing such subsidiaries, twelve more have gone in the Cayman Islands, and he affirmed the Bank does not support tax evasion. He said that globally the Bank pays $3.6 billion in tax. Mr Haslam responded that he was sure that was a contribution to the provision of public services which was welcomed in all the societies in which the Bank does business, and has since written to Mr McFarlane to enquire how that $3.6 billion is calculated and distributed. He commented, ‘Often large companies say they can’t give overall figures like this as the Group is made up of many parts, but clearly Barclays does have consolidated accounts enabling it to say where and how the Bank pays tax and it will be interesting to see what that is. It is important holders of shares and accounts continue to press banks on these issues, to help restore justice to our economic system’.

The Methodist Church has shares in Barclays Bank, along with many other corporations who have avoided tax. We believe that, as a major shareholder, it should be engaging in conversations like this one, to express its disappointment at the actions of these companies. If you agree, why not ask your church treasurer to contact the Central Finance Board on this issue, or contact the CFB yourself?

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Methodist Tax Justice Network
The Methodist Tax Justice Network aims to put tax justice issues at the heart of the Methodist Church's mission, through campaigning, working with partners in the UK and overseas and educating and communicating within the Methodist Connexion.