It's that time of year again, and for the next forty days, many will be giving things up or taking things on for Lent. Each year, I try and take on a different theme; 'Eco-fasting'; 'Count your blessings with Christian Aid; etc etc.
This year, the pressing issue is clearly Tax Justice, so that is the Lenten theme for me over the coming weeks. Please join me if you can - you might want to make a few variations, but here is my plan:
1) The Amazon Fast. This company has been so disruptive to the British economy and highstreet but is simply hard to avoid. Amazon, with its aggressive tax avoidance policy, can easily out-compete British based highstreet firms and has been responsible for the loss of highstreet book, film and music shops. For lent, there will be no more cheap second hand books for me from this tax dodger!
2) Starbucks. I can't pretend I am giving them up for Lent, because like any sane person, I've been avoiding them since their anti-union and anti-tax paying policies came to light years ago. But I will start making sure that I publicly denounce Starbucks as much as possible for the next 40 days - starting with an 'Ashing' of a store on Ash Wednesday. Boy, does this company need to repent! Not only has it evaded millions of pounds of corporation tax over the last few years - but then it tried to publicly bribe the government a few months ago, instead of simply paying its tax!
3) Encourage people to move banks away from Barclays. Barclays has been revealed to have been at the heart of helping tax cheats in the UK, especially during the Bob Diamond's reign of profiteering. Last nights TV documentary cemented the Banks evil recent legacy. They say they have changed, and pledge to be different, whilst at the same time axing nearly 4000 jobs (mostly in Asia) whilst leaving many who were responsible for the Libor scandal untouched. Move your bank accounts during Lent - try the Co-op instead - you'll sleep much better at night!
4) Buy local. For 40 days, I'll avoid the Boots and Tesco's of this world, companies who avoid taxes and kill the local highstreet. I'll be looking out instead for that local bakers (Muller's in Sunderland!) and family butchers, they often give people much better working conditions and generally contribute much more to the local economy.
Join me, and let's support those who pay their taxes so that our kids get a decent education, bins are collected, and brother's in law can be looked after by the NHS.
Make up your own version of the Tax Justice Fast for Lent!