In the wake of UK children’s writer Allan Ahlberg’s refusal of the Amazon-sponsored inaugural Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award – over Amazon’s tax avoidance policies and other issues including the Hachette standoff – The Guardian has been probing into similar tax efficiency schemes, highlighting, of all players, Nando’s the Portuguese style chicken chain. According to The Guardian, Nando’s not only uses a secretive Channel Islands trust to avoid heavy inheritance tax on the owners of the privately-held group, but also “uses a battery of offshore techniques, including companies in Malta, Guernsey and the Netherlands, to legally reduce its UK corporation tax bill by up to a third.”
Other beneficiaries of similar schemes cited in the article include Sir Michael Caine, Arctic Monkeys, and the Rothermeres, owners of the Daily Mail. As The Guardian admits, the structures used by Nando’s and its founding family “are all legal, but they are complex and not transparent. They significantly reduce the amount of tax the company and the family pay around the world, compared to a conventional onshore British operation.”
Facebook commentators were quick to draw the parallel with Amazon. “Nando’s, Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc etc paying no tax,” said one. “The way to deal with Nando’s, Amazon, Starbucks and other multi-nationals who operate aggressive and elaborate schemes to avoid paying tax is to introduce new tax laws,” wrote another commentator on The Guardian‘s original article.
Given international trade and taxation treaties, there is next to zero chance of such legislation being introduced in the UK, although more global agreements could change Amazon’s tax situation. But at least some people are finally getting the message that Amazon is by no means the only or the worst offender. So back to their chicken game with Hachette …