US Uncut: The New Movement against Austerity and Corporate Tax Cheats

From Common Dreams:

by Brian Tierney

By Monday April 18th most Americans will have finished filing their taxes, helping to boost government revenue at a time when the only thing most politicians care to discuss is how to cut the deficit.

But a large pack of corporate citizens will probably not be worrying about paying their dues; tax day, like any other day for them, will be strictly devoted to growing their bloated profit margins.

Recent reporting that some of the largest U.S. corporations have paid little to nothing in federal income taxes in the past few years hasn’t stopped the upside-down debate in Washington. The beltway budget battle remains focused on one blunt question: how much of a beating should be given to workers and the poor in order to bring down the deficit while leaving the corporate bottom line unscathed?

Beyond Capitol Hill, however, the scope of corporate tax-dodging during a period of devastating budget cuts has inspired the ire of thousands of Americans and given birth to a new people-powered movement to hold big business and their mouthpieces in Washington accountable for the cuts. It’s called US Uncut, a campaign that has produced hundreds of direct actions targeting notorious tax cheats like Bank of America and Verizon while agitating around other major offenders like General Electric and Citigroup.

Thanks to tax breaks, creative accounting schemes, loopholes and off-shore havens, these companies are raking in billions and getting away with systematic tax-evading operations that would land ordinary people in jail.

Launched back in February, US Uncut has so far made Bank of America and Verizon the primary targets of its actions. According to US Uncut, Bank of America’s 2009 pre-tax income was $4.4 billion. As the fifth largest corporation in the world, Bank of America received $45 billion in bailout funds in 2008 and 2009 but didn’t pay a single dime in federal income taxes in 2009. In the same year, Bank of America received up to $1.9 billion in tax refunds.

How did they get away with it? Bank of America has 115 foreign tax-havens where it keeps its income in order to avoid taxes. And Bank of America is not alone. Roughly 25 percent of the largest U.S. corporations don’t pay any federal income taxes.

US Uncut has adopted a model of organizing first used in the U.K. where an organization called UK Uncut has been using hundreds of creatively-themed, non-violent direct actions targeting companies that flout their duty to pay taxes while budget crises are crippling social programs. The “flash mob”-style actions are meant to both pressure companies and galvanize the broader population through attention-grabbing and highly publicized direct actions.

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