Wetherspoons Offers One-Day Discount Of 7.5 Percent In VAT Protest

George Bowden
A protest over VAT is intended to show Wetherspoon customers the effect of the tax in pubs (Oli Scarff via Getty Images)

JD Wetherspoon has been praised for drastically reducing the price of its food and drink on Wednesday in a protest over VAT.

The national pub chain will cut prices across the board by 7.5 percent in England and Wales - the current rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) applied to pubs and bars.

In Scotland the one-day discount will apply to food and soft drinks only. 

Brexit-backer Tim Martin says VAT stifles investment in hospitality (BEN STANSALL via Getty Images)

Wetherspoons, run by Brexit-backer Tim Martin, says the move will show customers how much they’d save if VAT was scrapped in pubs.

The protest has been dubbed the “National Tax Equality Day”, and will see 26p knocked off a £3.50 pint.

Martin says: “We are proud to support the campaign to reduce the level of VAT in the pub industry.

“On Tax Equality Day, customers in our pubs will find the price of their drinks and food to be lower than normal. We are keen to highlight the amount which customers would save, if VAT in pubs were lowered permanently.”

Wetherspoons, which has just under 1,000 outlets in the UK, employs around 37,000 people.

But that figure would be higher if the government cut VAT in the hospitality sector, Martin argued.

He continued: “A reduction in the level of VAT, on a long-term basis, will generate growth and create jobs in the important leisure and hospitality sector. Creating tax equality among pubs, restaurants and supermarkets will fulfil many government objectives.

“It will create more jobs and raise the amount of taxes which the government receives, since pubs and restaurants pay more taxes and create more jobs than supermarkets do. It is a win-win situation for the Government and our industry.”

And the move drew praise from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Tim Page, CAMRA’s chief executive: “CAMRA welcomes Wetherspoons taking the initiative in drawing attention to the huge tax burden faced by UK pubs.

We support the view that the government should address the current imbalance between the taxes paid by pubs and other social drinking establishments, and that paid by supermarkets and off-licences.

“Taxes now make up more than a third of a cost of a pint. This is frankly unsustainable, and it is the consumer that will ultimately pay the price - whether it’s when their beloved local closes down or when the cost of their pint goes up.”

However, the government has previously disputed such figures.

A similar protest in 2013 prompted the government to suggest a five percent cut to VAT in pubs would cost the public purse £9bn.