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Business Comment

Simon English: Tax change could put the Boots into Pessina


Outlook Stefano Pessina thinks I'm an idiot (this isn't a club of one, I grant you).

Two years ago on the occasion of Alliance Boots' results, I asked the Italian billionaire who runs the company if he was worried about public perceptions of how little tax Boots pays. Wasn't it at least possible that UK consumers, sick at their own tax bill and annoyed at those not appearing to pull their weight, would decide to avoid Boots?

His reply? (I'm paraphrasing, but not by much): "You are a fool. You don't understand this issue. You don't understand tax. Or business."

Let me plead guilty to all of the above but he was missing the point. His anger led to the conversation ending abruptly.

Anyway, I think the sands are shifting under Mr Pessina.

If David Cameron could borrow a pair of balls from anywhere at all and tell large companies that if they want to operate here they should pay the same rate as the small firms on which the economy ultimately depends, we could see change apace.

Forget the law: tax of £2m on profit of £2bn is just wrong. No accountant needs be involved. Any idiot can see it.

Mr Pessina might have to shift. He has no need to apologise when he does – the money itself will suffice.

Click here to see the response from Boots Alliance