Guests defend Ritz owners for using loopholes in law

The Ritz, perhaps Britain's most instantly recognisable hotel, is facing the prospect of being targeted by protest groups over revelations that it has not paid any corporation tax in the last 17 years.

While the hotel has become the latest company to be caught up in the corporate tax controversy, there was little sign of the sort of public anger aimed at firms like Starbucks among those staying there yesterday.

Instead, some customers told i that the onus must be on the Government to crack down on any business which legally avoided paying tax.

"If what they are doing is not illegal, then they are not doing anything wrong," said one visitor to the Ritz. As the man waited for a taxi outside the hotel, he said: "It is the Government's fault if firms are able to employ strategies to minimise their taxes, the politicians need to sort out the loopholes."

Another guest, a Yorkshireman who lives in Kazakhstan, said it was the moral responsibility of companies to "give something back" but that it was difficult to see a firm paying tax it is not forced to.

Sarah Greene, a member of anti tax avoidance group UK Uncut, said: "It is an outrage that the Government continues to let the super-wealthy and big businesses dodge millions in tax while vital services like refuges and rape crisis centres, benefits and the NHS face the axe.

The comments came after a BBC report unveiled the Ritz's tax arrangements. Aidan Barclay, who runs the UK operation on behalf of its joint owners the Barclay brothers, said that the Ritz had not paid any dividends, and profits from the hotel had been reinvested.

Mr Barclay, son of Sir David Barclay said: "The Barclay family members and their companies abide by the law and pay the taxes required by UK law and the laws of other relevant countries." His father said: "We have always acted in a responsible way with regard to taxation and have never been involved in any tax avoidance scheme."

UK Uncut, which carried out a demonstration at Fortnum and Mason last year, is believed to have added the hotel to the list of firms to be considered for future action.