Simon English: 'Spoons suffers another unfair helping of taxes

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The Independent Online

Outlook Tim Martin was banging on about the same old thing yesterday. He's perfectly entitled, since he's right.

His cheep and cheerful pub chain JD Wetherspoon is managing the economic decline better than most.

Sales are rising and the empire is still growing, albeit at a slower rate than before. More than that, Mr Martin is still hiring people.

But the taxation issue continues to annoy. In his latest update to investors he notes three tax rises of late – a rise in excise duty and fruit machine tax and a so-called "late night levy" – that will cost the company £11m this year. Says Mr Martin: "The extra taxes on fruit machines and the late-night levy are not applicable to supermarkets, so the tax disparity between supermarkets and pubs has been further increased."

'Spoons has created 3000 jobs in the past year, "but all of the economic benefits of our expansion are currently being levied by the Government as taxes, an unsustainable situation".

When bankers moan about tax and hint about moving to the thriving financial market in Peru, they're generally trying it on. It's a bluff that should be called. Mr Martin isn't threatening anything, he just thinks the efforts of himself and his staff to run a proper business are being unfairly hindered. It's hard to escape the idea that since Wetherspoons is the sort of place in which George Osborne would only be seen dead, he views the pubs as no more than sources of tax revenue at best and social problems at worst.

If the Chancellor wanted to show he really is business, rather than merely banker, friendly, he'd cut onerous taxes down the local.