UK Uncut

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UK Uncut
Founded October 2010
Type Advocacy group
Focus Anti-austerity, Tax avoidance
  • United Kingdom
Area served
United Kingdom
Method Demonstration
UK Uncut protest at a Vodafone shop in Glasgow on 30 June 2011

UK Uncut is a network of United Kingdom-based protest groups established in October 2010 to protest against tax avoidance in the UK and to raise awareness about cuts to public services.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Various sources have described the group as left-wing in its political orientation.[7][8][9][10] However, UK Uncut do not identify themselves as being left or right leaning, but as a movement that offers an alternative to the austerity programme of the governing Coalition.[11]


The idea of UK Uncut originated in October 2010 with a group of ten activists in a north London pub who were having a discussion about the lack of resistance to the public sector cuts. Private Eye had just published an article about Vodafone avoiding tax so they organised a protest against Vodafone on Oxford Street. Protesters met at Piccadilly and successfully closed the Oxford Street Vodafone store.[12]

Tactics and targets[edit]

The group uses direct action to get its message across, often closing down high street stores that they believe are owned by tax avoiders.[1]

Actions are organised independently by local UK Uncut groups and promoted through the UK Uncut website.

Vodafone was targeted after Private Eye alleged that a deal they made with HM Revenue and Customs substantially reduced the amount of back taxes that they had to pay. Private Eye alleged that Vodafone were originally found liable for £6 billion, but negotiated the amount to be paid down to under £2 billion.[13]

However, the National Audit Office said that the settlement represented reasonable value for the British taxpayer.[14]

Sir Philip Green and the Arcadia Group's shops including Topshop, BHS, and Burton have been targeted as the group is owned by Phillip Green's wife, who lives in Monaco where she is outside the scope of UK income tax.[15]

Boots was targeted on 30 January 2011. Three people needed hospital treatment after police used CS spray on protesters.[16][17][18]

Fortnum & Mason and their parent company, Wittington Investments were targeted during the 26 March 2011 anti-cuts protests for their tax avoidance policies.[19] This took the form of a mass sit-in. The police arrested and charged 138 protesters with "aggravated trespass". A video obtained by The Guardian backed up protesters' claims that senior police officers tricked them, arresting them after assurances that they were being led to safety.[20] As of 5 July 2011, legal proceedings against five minors were dropped, thirteen were expected to enter plea bargains at City of Westminster magistrates and charges remain against 139 others.[21]

The group has said it will support the actions of Occupy London, a London spin-off of Occupy Wall Street.[22][23]

In November 2011, the legal arm of UK Uncut took HM Revenue & Customs to court. HMRC had been accused of failing to provide substantial reasons for not collecting billions of pounds in tax revenue.[24]

It must be noted that HMRC are unable to comment on specific taxpayers' tax affairs. Instead, the National Audit Office (NAO) were asked to review the settlements in question, one being Vodafone, as mentioned above. The NAO found that "the settlements reached by HMRC in these five cases were all reasonable".[14]


Through meetings on Twitter at the end of January it was decided that the next UK Uncut targets would be banks that were alleged to have caused the financial crisis and had been bailed out by the government with billions of pounds. UK Uncut called for people to stage "bail-ins" to turn banks into things that UK Uncut perceived as being threatened by the cuts.[25]

HSBC have also been accused of avoiding £2 billion worth of tax by Private Eye magazine by using a complicated system of channeling profits through the Netherlands,.[26] This has led to them being targeted by UK Uncut.[27]

On 19 February 2011, Barclays was targeted. The date was arranged to coincide with their bonus announcements. It was also alleged that Barclays was only paying 1% corporation tax in the UK.[28]

On 26 February, a day of action was called against the Royal Bank of Scotland and their subsidiary Natwest. The protest was arranged to coincide with the banks' bonus announcements. Once again protestors turned bank branches into services that they considered were threatened by the cuts.[29]


On 9 October 2011, 2,000 health workers and activists took part in a sit-down protest on Westminster Bridge organised by UK Uncut in opposition to the proposed Health and Social Care Bill.[30]

The group has also targeted Atos, an IT company whose healthcare division operates a program for the Department for Work and Pensions to assess workers claiming disability benefits to see if they are "incapable" of work. Critics have felt that its program has lacked integrity and that its real goal is to divert funding from the disabled due to a lowered budget.[31] The group also felt that it was inappropriate for Atos to sponsor the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, a complimentary event to the Olympics for the disabled given how its operation of the program has impacted the lives of many disabled workers through the denial of benefits. UK Uncut held a week of protests dubbed "The Atos Games" during the last week of August to coincide with the start of the Paralympics ending with a joint demonstration with Disabled People Against Cuts on 31 August outside the London headquarters of Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions.[32]

UK Uncut protesters, who were unimpressed by Starbucks' offer to pay £20 million corporation tax in the next two years, took part in protests in December 2012.[33][34]


A similar protest group inspired by UK Uncut has formed in the USA under the name US Uncut.[35] The protest also spread to other European countries, creating decentralized protest groups like Portugal Uncut.[36] A group called Take VAT targeted several companies avoiding VAT by selling goods to the UK through the Channel Islands.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mark Townsend (19 December 2010). "High street stores hit in day of action over corporate tax avoidance". The Observer. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Shackleton, Len. "UK Uncut is wrong about tax avoidance". IEA. 
  3. ^ "Support high street protests on Saturday". Public and Commercial Services Union. 
  4. ^ Hyde, John (5 April 2011). "Canary Wharf security expect peaceful UK Uncut protest". The Docklands. 
  5. ^ "Uncut activists protest at bank for low tax payment". 21 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "UK Uncut". UK Uncut. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  7. ^ May, Christian (5 April 2011). "UK Uncut to Pieces". The Commentator. 
  8. ^ Lee Adams, William (29 July 2011). "TIME". TIME. 
  9. ^ "Murdoch attacker is a 'renowned left-wing activist who had targeted Barclays and Vodafone'". Daily Mail. 20 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Hari, Johann (21 February 2011). "How to Build a Progressive Tea Party". 
  11. ^ "UK Uncut". UK Uncut. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  12. ^ Paul Lewis, Adam Gabbatt, Matthew Taylor and Simon Jeffery (3 December 2010). "UK Uncut protesters spied upon by undercover police". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  13. ^ "Vodafone-a-Friend at HMRC". Private Eye. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Settling large tax disputes |National Audit Office. (2012-06-14). Retrieved on 2013-08-12.
  15. ^ "UK Uncut". UK Uncut. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  16. ^ Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Paige (30 January 2011). "Police use CS spray on tax protesters". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  17. ^ "Police use CS gas on tax protesters". The Daily Telegraph. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  18. ^ "BBC News - CS spray used on UK Uncut protest". BBC News. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  19. ^ "Cuts protesters claim police tricked them into mass arrest". 26 March 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  20. ^ Shiv Malik (28 March 2011). "Press release: UK Uncut Occupy Tax Dodgers Fortnum and Mason". Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Siddique, Haroon (5 July 2011). "UK Uncut protesters due in court over store occupation". The Guardian. 
  22. ^ "Anti-corporate protests to hit London". The Sydney Morning Herald. AFP. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. Protests against corporate power that have taken hold in the US are to hit Britain on Saturday with a rally in front of the London Stock Exchange. Occupy London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX) [...] is backed by British anti-austerity group UK Uncut, the London-based Assembly of the Spanish 15M movement and the People's Assemblies Network Global Day of Action. 
  23. ^ "Occupy London Stock Exchange attracts 9,000 followers on Facebook". Metro. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011. A group called Occupy London Stock Exchange said a Facebook page about the protests had attracted more than 9,000 followers with more than 3,500 confirmed attendees. Campaigning organisations, including direct action group UK Uncut, confirmed they will support the action in the heart of the capital's financial centre on Saturday. 
  24. ^ Tom Nicolson (20 December 2011). "UK Uncut Takes HMRC to Court". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  25. ^ "Targets - Banks". UK Uncut. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  26. ^ "Going Dutch". Private Eye. November 2010. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. 
  27. ^ Daniel Boffey (26 December 2010). "UK Undressed: Bodybuilding fanatic brings chaos to Britain's high streets as ringleader of anti-tax avoidance movement". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 December 2010. 
  28. ^ "Uncut protesters target Barclays bank". The Daily Telegraph. 19 February 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  29. ^ Amelia Hill (27 February 2011). "UK Uncut turns ire on RBS as protests spread to US". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  30. ^ Taylor, Matthew (9 October 2011). "Protesters against NHS reforms occupy Westminster Bridge". The Guardian. 
  31. ^ Poulton, Sonia (30 August 2012). "The Atos Games will showcase disabled people's anger at Paralympic sponsors". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 
  32. ^ Addley, Esther (31 August 2012). "Paralympic sponsor Atos hit by protests". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Escobales, Roxanne; McVeigh, Tracy (8 December 2012). "Starbucks hit by UK Uncut protests as tax row boils over". Guardian. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  34. ^ "BBC News - Starbucks agrees to pay more corporation tax". 6 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  35. ^ Matthew Taylor and Paul Lewis (18 February 2011). "UK Uncut: grassroots protests spread from Wales to Mississippi". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  36. ^ "Portugal Uncut's Blog". 
  37. ^ Jonathan Paige (10 February 2011). "Take VAT plans action against companies avoiding the 20% tax". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 

External links[edit]