Taxman sounds death knell for top bellmakers

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The Independent Online
The taxman may succeed where Hitler failed and finally kill off one of the world's most famous bellmakers.

The Whitechapel Foundry has survived the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, but its owner says it could now be put out of business by the Customs and Excise.

For years the foundry in London's East End has made many of the world's most prestigious bells. But a decision to charge VAT on all new bells could be the death knell for the world-famous foundry.

Big Ben's booming tones come from bells made at Whitechapel as does the famous cracked Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Closer to home, the cockney bells of St Mary-le-Bow were cast at the foundry.

Now the foundry's owner, Alan Hughes, finds himself in a battle to save his famous company.

He said: "It's going to put many churches under pressure when they come to ordering new bells. They will have to pay one- sixth more for their bells. This all comes from a decision the Customs and Excise made about six weeks ago.

"It could put almost all bell foundries out of business. This is a blow because it is as a result of a bureaucratic decision, not any change in the law."

Mr Hughes added: "VAT on big new bell orders will definitely threaten our existence."

A spokesman for the Customs and Excise said: "There may have been a mistake and we are trying to sort it out."

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