JD Wetherspoon boss takes aim at 'Budget for dinner parties'

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/jd-wetherspoon-boss-takes-aim-at-budget-for-dinner-parties-10796423">JD Wetherspoon boss takes aim at 'Budget for dinner parties'</a>
 

Brexit-backing pubs boss Tim Martin has reignited his row with the Treasury over what he sees as tax disparity with supermarkets, accusing the Chancellor of delivering a "Budget for dinner parties".

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon, who often uses the release of his company's results to commentate on key issues, including the UK's divorce from the EU , accused Philip Hammond of threatening the sector's survival on several fronts.

He said tax and regulatory increases would add about £20m to its costs over the next year, including £7m in business rates and a £2m Apprenticeship Levy charge.

Mr Martin said the proposed sugar tax and additional electricity tax charges would bolster the bill further, insisting that Wetherspoon wasn't eligible for the Chancellor's £1,000 business rates discount for pubs.

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His main, well-trodden, argument focused on his belief there is no incentive for people to eat or drink in pubs because of the tax regime.

"The company has previously emphasised the far higher taxes per meal or per pint that pubs pay compared to supermarkets," he said.

"For example, supermarkets pay less than 2p per pint for business rates, whereas pubs pay around 18p per pint.

"The increase in business rates per pint for pubs from next month will be around 2p, further exacerbating the tax gap.

"Pubs also pay VAT of 20% in respect of food sales, but supermarkets pay almost nothing, enabling supermarkets to subsidise the price of alcoholic drinks."

Mr Martin accused Mr Hammond of being less than frank in his speech about alcohol duty increases, which will go up in line with inflation.

"In effect, this was a budget for dinner parties, no doubt the preference of the Chancellor and his predecessor - dinner parties will suffer far less from the taxes outlined above, whereas many people prefer to go to pubs, given the choice," he said.

JD Wetherspoon reported a 43% leap in pre-tax profits to £51m for its half-year to January 22, with revenue rising 1.4% to £801m.

Comparable sales were 2.7% higher in the six weeks to 5 March, the company said.

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