Mid-October, A citizen gathering – previously organized around the fight against the TTIP – performed a civil disobedience stunt in an IKEA store in Anderlecht, Belgium, recreating an hospital’s Emergency Room. In this non-violent “flashmob”, the 50-people crowd acted as surgeons, nurses, patients and even a priest, populating the “sleeping” area of the IKEA warehouse and its numerous beds in a humorous and peaceful act, in front of the shop’s clients, employees and security officers.
Camille, a member of the “Flashmob Fiscal Justice collective”, explains the action is inspired by the fact that IKEA pays 2% taxes on its benefits in Belgium, compared to an average 33,99% tax rate in the country. The 140 million euros avoided by Ikea equals to 350-bed hospital’s expenses for a year, the collective calculated.
This video recaps the action in Anderlecht, with a quite funny “ER” TV-show soundtrack:
One week after the stunt, the activists sent a bilingual postcard to Belgium’s Finance Minister and distributed it widely for the wide public to do as well. The postcard simply expresses citizens’ concerns about the “tax discounts”:
“In 2016, the postcard says, the profit made by IKEA in Belgium exceeded 450 million euros. But the multinational only paid 10 million euros in taxes to the Belgian state, whereas it should have normally paid nearly 150 million. By paying only 2% of taxes instead of the regular 33% rate charged to companies, IKEA deprives the Belgian population of the equivalent of a 350-bed hospital operating for one year. Does this shock you? Send this card to the Minister of Finance who authorizes such tax discounts”.
Noteworthy is the media coverage of the action, clearly identifying IKEA’s tax avoidance as “legal” but presenting all its immoral consequences. The RTBF (Public media)’s story also mentions how multinational corporations exploit the tax competition between European countries, to shift profits from one country to the other. The Flashmob collective also explains how the “tax gifts” given by Belgium to some corporations imply that SMEs and “normal citizens” finally pay more than their share: “SMEs and citizens end up financing the very services that are used by multinational corporations, Camille explains, e.g. the roads used by Ikea to transport their products.”