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Vodafone anti-tax avoidance campaign 'goes viral'

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Anti-tax avoidance campaigners are planning to ramp up their fight against Vodafone another notch this weekend by blockading more stores across the UK.

The activists claim that Vodafone evaded around £6bn in UK tax by using Luxembourg as a routing location for their £112bn (Ä180bn / $183bn) acquisition of German mobile phone company Mannesmann in 2000 and subsequent "".

They also allege that the government settled the £6bn claim against Vodafone for just £1.2bn recently. The settlement has been criticised as rather "cosy" in some quarters, particularly since Vodafone's financial director, Andy Halford, is a key adviser to chancellor George Osborne on corporate tax.

Read more about the allegations of tax avoidance, which first broke in September, on .

Ramping up the anti-avoidance / anti-cuts protests

Activists launched an e-petition and against Vodafone two weeks ago. The campaign quickly went viral and became symbolic of the wider campaign against tax avoidance and budget cuts.

Last weekend, protestors congregated outside Vodafone stores in 10 cities across the UK, and forced over a dozen to close following .

"The numbers will be a lot bigger this weekend," said Amy Cox, 25, who participated in last week's action in Brighton.

"We have leaflets explaining how Vodafone has been evading tax and how that fits into the wider government spiel that all these cuts are all really necessary -- when instead they could be sourcing some of this money from big corporations evading their taxes," she said.

Alice Campbell, 35, describes the anti-avoidance protestors as a "varied group". Describing a demonstration in Glasgow, she said "there were pensioners, some housing activists, some students, environmental activists...".

"It's about the cuts," she added. "We shouldn't be facing them."

An activist in Liverpool. Ellie Mae O'Hagan, 25, agrees. "The government is choosing to make these cuts, they're not being forced to make them. I think it's important to establish that they don't need to happen, but I don't think that message is getting through at the moment."

"Vodafone should brace themselves," O'Hagan says. "Because we're not done with them yet."

HM Revenue investigation

HM Revenue says it agreed a £1.25bn tax settlement with Vodafone following "an intensive period of negotiation that tested the arguments of both parties".

But it has denied that it allowed Vodafone to forgo £6bn as quoted in Private Eye. An HMRC spokesman said: "There is no question of Vodafone having an outstanding tax liability of £6bn. That number is an urban myth."

meanwhile says the company "meets its tax obligations in the UK" and "is paying the full sum of tax that was agreed following HMRC's full investigation earlier this year".

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