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Saving bucks at Starbucks

01 February 2013
Saving bucks at Starbucks

Firms will always minimise their tax liability. Surely there are better reasons to take to the streets, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock

The odd thing is that the strongest indignation is not coming from UK-based business operators, whose only way of avoiding corporation tax is to make no profit, but from members of the public. On a visit to Birmingham a few days ago we witnessed one of several organised demonstrations outside a branch of Starbucks.

This particular mob consisted of scruffy youths in masks - one of whom had a loud-hailer. As my wife commented at the time, the majority did not look the sort to have regular jobs and so they are probably contributing little or nothing to HM Revenue & Customs themselves. To calm ourselves we headed straight into Starbucks for a cup of tea.

Look into the accounts of almost any firm and I dare say you will find that its directors have used whatever legal opportunities they can to minimise their tax liability.

Foreign-based companies obviously have more options as to where they declare any profits - and it is a challenge for the chancellor to plug as many of these holes as possible in his quest to get on top of the national debt.

As to why anybody needs to take to the streets in such a menacing way on this issue I can't fathom. Surely there are greater outrages than widely-used and perfectly lawful tax management - what about child abuse, cruelty to animals and drug-dealing for starters?

Until the end of the 18th century we weren't taxed at all. Income tax was introduced to pay for the war with Napoleon, and successive governments have been rather hooked on the stuff ever since.

It is collected in numerous ways and the catering trade is among its most assiduous collectors, whether we treat is as our moral duty or not.

So even where no corporation tax is being paid, customers can console themselves that they are still contributing to VAT, employers' national insurance, income tax, business rates and fuel duty with every cappuccino they buy.

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