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British public ‘being ripped off’ as Shell pays just 22p in tax per citizen despite record profits

UK ranks 19th out of the 25 countries in which Shell operates for the amount of tax it paid, campaigners say

Danny Halpin
Tuesday 23 May 2023 05:57 BST
Related: Greenpeace targets Shell HQ after record-breaking oil profits

The British public are being “ripped off” by Shell, which made record profits of £32 billion last year while paying the equivalent of 22p per UK citizen in tax, campaigners have said.

In a new comedy sketch released in time for Shell’s AGM on Tuesday, satirist Jolyon Rubenstein pretends to be a representative of the fictional charity We’re Richer Because You’re Poorer and hands out 22p to members of the British public.

Mr Rubenstein, who is known for the BBC show The Revolution Will be Televised, teamed up with the environmental NGO Global Witness to mock Shell’s tax contribution.

The clip, filmed in London, shows conversations between the comedian and the public about how Shell has paid more tax in almost every other country in which it operates than in the UK.

Speaking to the PA news agency before the video’s release, Mr Rubenstein said: “Britain is being ripped off, we’re being ripped off.

“In 2022, Shell lobbied the government so hard that according to Transparency International, on an average of one every three working days they were in lobbying meetings in Westminster – 87 lobbying meetings in 252 working days.

“If you look across the board, what you will see is that we’re a laughing stock and I don’t think the British public really realise that.

“Compared to Norway, the United States and Qatar, Shell are getting away with with murder. They’re paying substantively more to all of those countries than they are to Britain.

“Where’s the great in Great Britain here? Why are we doing so badly at taking tax revenue?”

The windfall tax takes the marginal tax rate on North Sea oil and gas production to 75%, one of the highest rates globally

HM Treasury spokesperson

Global Witness said the UK ranks 19th out of the 25 countries in which Shell operates for the amount of tax it paid.

In March the company announced it paid £15 million to the UK last year – £7 million in taxes and a further £8 million in fees.

It was still able to write down its tax bill by around £34 million due to the money it is spending in the country.

In 2021, Shell paid £8.7 million in fees but was handed back £107 million from HM Revenue and Customs and so was left with a negative bill in the UK of around £98 million.

The £15 million tax bill from 2022 amounts to 22p per UK citizen, which Global Witness called “pitiful”.

HM Treasury said it does not comment on the affairs of individual taxpayers but that it routinely meets stakeholders to discuss policy issues.

A spokesperson said: “Through the Energy Profits Levy (EPL) we are ensuring excess energy profits – driven by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine – are being used to ease the pressure on families up and down the country, and are in part enabling us to cover nearly half a typical household’s energy bill up to the end of June.

“The windfall tax takes the marginal tax rate on North Sea oil and gas production to 75%, one of the highest rates globally.

“And, while we work to halve inflation and grow the economy, these funds are being used to provide one of the most generous cost of living packages in the world- worth £94 billion, which is around £3,300 per household this year and last.”

HM Treasury said it only taxes profits made on the UK Continental Shelf and that profits made in other oil and gas basins will go to other jurisdictions.

Through a tax break in the EPL, oil and gas companies can reclaim 91p of every £1 of tax due on oil and gas profits if it is reinvested in more UK North Sea projects.

There is no way morally or frankly just practically that British citizens should have received the pitiful sum of just 22p each from the fossil fuel giant in taxes last year

Alice Harrison, Global Witness

Global Witness said Shell paid more than £1,000 per citizen in Norway, though there are around 60 million less people than in the UK.

Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at Global Witness, said: “2022 saw Shell rake in record profits amidst a deep and painful energy crisis that pushed millions of Brits into poverty.

“There is no way morally or frankly just practically that British citizens should have received the pitiful sum of just 22p each from the fossil fuel giant in taxes last year.

“To add insult to injury, our Government continues to hand the oil and gas industry billions of pounds in tax breaks and other subsidies.”

Shell has been contacted for comment.

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