The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have joined forces with a leading political lobbyist to launch "the biggest campaign yet" for a reduction in the level of VAT in the hospitality industry.
The campaign will focus on reducing the overall tax burden for pubs as well as a reduction in the level of VAT which retailers have to pass on to their customers.
The ALMR and the BBPA have hired Westminster political lobbyist and ComRes director Chris Guyver to head the joint campaign. Guyver has a track record in advising the leisure and hospitality industry on a number of key issues including licensing reform.
A spokesman for the campaign told The Caterer: "This is the biggest VAT campaign yet by the industry. We believe this campaign is winnable. It won't happen overnight but we know we have public support for this and the fact we now have two big industry organisations joining forces on this is a very positive step."
In a joint announcement launching the campaign this week, Guyver called on the British government to follow the example of other European governments to reduce VAT in the sector. He said: "The overall tax burden on the pub sector remains too high and there is a big differential between pubs and supermarkets.
"Pubs pay a third of their turnover in taxes and regulatory costs and supermarkets around a fifth.This disparity inhibits job creation and investment and also gives supermarkets an unfair advantage over pubs.
"The VAT regime is also unfair as supermarkets pay zero VAT on most food, compared with pubs which pay 20% and use this financial advantage to sell alcohol at low prices.
"Unlike other countries in Europe, the British government hasn't taken action to reduce VAT in the sector, despite the positive contribution it would make to job creation. We believe it should address this important issue."
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: "I am delighted we will be working together on this campaign. I have always believed that action is needed to tackle the VAT burden on pubs, not least because when it comes to food, it is a burden that falls too heavily on our sector."
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the joint campaign: "Food-led pubs and casual dining restaurants are labour and property intensive and the high tax burden is a barrier to jobs, growth and investment.
She added that Guyver's appointment was key to delivering the campaign's message. She said: "We are very pleased that Chris will lead the campaign and his experience advising some of the world's largest companies will be invaluable in getting the message over to politicians and opinion formers."
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