Wetherspoon hits out at plans for post-pandemic VAT increase

Pub operator JD Wetherspoon has hit out at UK government plans to increase the value added tax on food served in bars and restaurants, after it was cut last year during the first wave of the pandemic.

Wetherspoon said on Wednesday that the staged increase from 5 per cent to 20 per cent over the next year would “make the entire hospitality industry less competitive vis-à-vis powerful supermarkets”, which pay no VAT on food.

The UK pub group accused the government of acting like a TV character, saying: “For many years, UK governments have therefore behaved like Monty Python’s Dennis Moore — who robbed the poor (in this case pubs and restaurants) to help the rich (supermarkets)”.

“Treating the same product — food — the same way for tax purposes makes economic sense,” it added.

The comments came in a trading update for the past three months. Wetherspoon has gradually reopened its pubs as restrictions have been lifted, and like-for-like sales between May 17 and June 10 were 8 per cent below the same period in 2019.

However, the company has been hit by its decision not to screen most Euro 2020 matches, and like-for-like sales since the tournament began have been down by almost 21 per cent.

Wetherspoon said that it expects to make a loss for the year ending July 25, and that sales for the following year are likely to be in line with those recorded in 2019.

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