The Bar Man - Beer tax makes us bitter
I have been cruising recently, a new experience for me. The main purpose was to attend the wedding, of my brother, who was married, courtesy of the ship’s captain, somewhere in the North Atlantic.
Most of the rest of the time was taken up with non-stop meals and changes of clothes.
My nice new polo shirt from Punch Taverns arrived too late so I had to make do with dinner jackets, suits, blazers, bow ties and the like.
Fortunately the routine was broken up by a number of shore excursions, one of which was to Gibraltar.
At first sight, this seems to be Britain with added monkeys. Pictures of the Queen jostle for space alongside the Union Flag, Marks and Spencer’s is next to the pub and you can converse in English and pay in pounds.
Look more carefully and some puzzles emerge. For instance, there are 17 bookmakers, 36 online poker sites and 37 casino sites operating from this British Overseas Territory, and yet as you walk the streets there is no sign that they exist.
I once stayed in a hotel in Stoke opposite the headquarters of Bet 365 which is a huge operation, so why are similar firms invisible in Gibraltar? Could it be that the bulk of the work goes on in other places, such as Britain and they only have an office in Gibraltar to avoid paying taxes? It is not the only place where this happens. Visit Jersey and see the hundreds of brass plaques on the solicitors’ doors. Check out why your mail order CDs are posted from the Channel Islands.
It is not just companies. How many top sports stars and entertainers either live abroad or contrive to work for overseas companies which just happen to be located in low tax areas, many which are controlled by Britain? How can Government adviser and owner of Top Shop, BHS and other high street shops, Sir Phillip Green, manage to avoid £285 million in tax by paying a £1.2 billion dividend to his wife, domiciled in Monaco?
Still, someone must help to pay back the deficit that our country has run up, and it seems that the burden is to fall on the beer drinker. Already a third of the cost of your pint goes straight to the Government, the second highest in Europe, but the state wants more. Every year the tax on beer rises at two per centabove inflation. Camra has organised a petition which attracted over 100,000 signatures calling for this duty escalator to be removed. I have contacted the local MP to ask for his support in this, but he is clear that this ever-increasing tax is needed to raise money to pay down the borrowings. So more pubs close, jobs are lost, fewer taxes are collected and villages lose their focus.
I understand that drinkers must make a contribution, but we cannot declare our local pub to be part of Gibraltar, pay half price for our bar wife’s drink because she lives in Monaco or decide that we are buying a drink as a company rather than an individual, and expect it cut price.
Aren’t we all in this together, as George Osborne said. I don’t see a great deal of difference between beer and coffee, so why not link the tax on beer to the amount of tax paid in the UK by Starbucks?
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Weather for King's Lynn
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 6 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west