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 …


  1. Don’t kid yourself. It may, just may, be possible that these loopholes are accidental. But they continue to exist because the politicians who write such laws benefit from keeping them around.

    I believe it was during the 1992 election campaign that it came out that one candidate, the billionaire H. Ross Perot, had given one member of Congress $10,000 and got a narrowly worded bit of legislation that probably only applied to him and that sheltered about $20 million in his income from taxation. Only the rich can buy those loopholes.

    The political game is to get the votes of poor fools by claiming to want to “tax the rich,” and they quietly sidle up to the rich and offer to provide them with loopholes for the proper campaign contribution or other financial reward.

    For instance, those who wanted LBJ, when he was a congressmen, to do them a favor, would take out ads on his wife’s Austin TV station. With the dad of today’s Al Gore (Sr not Jr), lobbyists would show up, bid outrageous sums on prize cattle, and then forget to take the cattle home with them.

    I suspect that the UK and the EU have similar breeds of politicians and similar favors being extended to them by those who benefit from those loopholes.

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