Sunderland reverend paints ash cross on Starbucks’ window in Lent war on tax-row firms

Rev. Chris Howson paints an Ash Cross on the window of Starbucks, The Bridges, Sunderland on Wednesday night as part of his Tax Justice for Lent campaign.
Rev. Chris Howson paints an Ash Cross on the window of Starbucks, The Bridges, Sunderland on Wednesday night as part of his Tax Justice for Lent campaign.
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A RADICAL Reverend is fasting from big high street chains instead of food this lent.

Chris Howson is making a stand against big name brands in aid of tax justice.

The Sunderland Minster Reverend is encouraging people to ditch companies like Amazon and Starbucks and support local businesses.

He started his campaign by “ashing” Starbucks in the Bridges. Marking something with ash is a sign that it needs to repent and is traditionally done on Ash Wednesday.

“I will start making sure that I publicly denounce Starbucks as much as possible for the next 40 days,” he said.

“Starting with the public ashing of the store.”

Starbucks has been in the spotlight since it was revealed it only paid £8.6million of corporation tax in the last 14 years of trading, and nothing in the last three years.

The company had UK sales of almost £400million in 2011 but reported a taxable profit only once in its 15 years in the UK.

Starbucks said it will pay around £10million in corporation tax for each of the next two years.

Reverend Howson is avoiding the companies as part of a national campaign by the group Christianity Uncut, he said: “I can’t pretend I’m giving up Starbucks.

“I’ve been avoiding them since their anti-union and anti-tax paying policies came to light.”

Also on his taboo list are Amazon and Barclays. Online company Amazon reportedly avoided tax by reporting European sales through offices in Luxembourg, MPs alleged, allowing the UKs biggest online retailer to pay less than 12 per cent on foreign profits in 2011, which is less than half the average corporate income tax rate in its major markets.

Amazon, which employs more than 5,000 people across the UK, as well as thousands of temporary staff, said it paid “all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within”.

“For lent, there will be no more second hand books for me from this company,” said Reverend Howson, who moved to Sunderland last year.

“I love second hand books so Amazon will be the hardest thing for me to avoid.

“With its aggressive tax avoidance policy, Amazon can easily out-compete British based high street firms.

“I’ll be looking out for local companies, like that local bakers- Muller’s- and family butchers, they often give people much better working conditions and generally contribute more to the local economy.

“For 40 days, I’ll avoid companies who avoid taxes and kill the local high street.”

Reverend Howson is encouraging people to move their bank accounts away from Barclays, just as BBC Programme Panorama once more highlighted the issues the bank has recently had.

“Barclays has been revealed to have been at the heart of tax issues in the UK,” he said.

“Join me, and let’s support those who pay their taxes so that our kids get a decent education, bins are collected, and families can be looked after by the NHS.”

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull