How can this not be an appealing title for a show? Maybe not so much pre 2008 but in the eight years that have passed since the global depression, anyone with a social conscience or even a slight concern over current affairs has an interest in the relationship between HRMC and Big Business.
We know that companies like Google, Starbucks and Amazon pay merely nominal levels of tax (or in the case of Café Nero, nothing at all) and how the vast sums of revenue not collected could pay off Britain’s deficit in one huge brown paper bag stuffed with lovely, lovely cash.
The majority of the general public hear terms like ‘loop hole’, ‘tax break’ and ‘scheme’ with only a vague understanding of what they mean, but economics is a tricky subject based on theory, opinion and guess work more than cold hard facts. This makes it very hard for the uninitiated to understand the esoteric maneuverers of international tax law.
The Town That Took on the Taxman, seeks to explain these arcane practices, but like a cross between The Money Programme and a Jamie Oliver style food campaign show, it also seeks to expose the legislation that allows a company like Google to pay less corporation tax in the UK than a your local independent coffee shop (if you are lucky enough to have such a thing).
Descending on the small town of Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons, where Boots is the “only chain in the village”, Heydon Prowse (The Revolution Will Be Televised) teams up with a group of local business men and women to not only learn how the big boys do it but to also encourage them to set up their own off-shore company to reduce their tax to more multinational level of taxation.
Vexed morally and financially, the group travel the globe educating themselves with the special magic of the tax lawyer before setting up their own fully legal tax dodge. The implication being that if they can, then really anyone can, thus forcing the Government to address the lack of parity between big and small business.
It is a simple show, formulaic in structure but striking in content, especially when we meet the (very charming) specialists and experts who advise the likes of Amazon on how not to contribute their fair share. The Crickhowell locals are all interesting and strong characters and even though the producers deemed fit to manufacture some tension between them, they give up this tired trope pretty quickly as they realise they have proper show on their hands and re focus on the amiable Mr Prowse as he guides the group in their endeavour.
I would love to see this show make an impact on our society and it really should, but the British Public can’t let go of being subjects and really embrace being citizens, so I fear we will continue to be patronised by our betters and the con of the ‘trickle-down’ effect.