At last weeks Town Centre Forum held at the Guildhall Eagles Meadow Manager Kevin Critchley expressed frustration at the amount of business rates companies in Eagles Meadow pay, and said “What do we get for the money is the real question!”
Mr Critchley said “I added up the rates paid in Eagles Meadow and last year it was £2.2 Million paid by our tenants”, he posed the question, “What do we get for that?”
He queried the lack of representation saying “Business rates are paid by business which has no formal representation in the political system. Businesses in Wrexham town centre do not have any official representation in the town. Business rates are murderous at the moment”.
Eagles Meadow opened in October 2008, however was not added to the Valuation Office’s rating list until April 1st 2010.
Billing and collection of business rates locally is the responsibility of Wrexham Council. The Council does get benefit from the tax, but rather than receipts being retained directly, they are pooled centrally in the UK and then are redistributed to councils. Overall business rates make up around 5% of the national tax income.
Previously we have written that planning applications for Eagles Meadow have indicated it is owned by a company in Luxembourg. Luxembourg has had a reputation of being a ‘tax haven’, with Amazon being one company famously benefiting from the way authorities view financial methods there.
The previous planning application named Merlin UK Venture Property SARL as the owners of Eagles Meadow. A SARL is similar to a private limited company as you would find in the UK, and there are similarly named “Merlin UK Property Venture” SARL’s 1 , 2 and 3 with addresses in Luxembourg. In other reports referring to Eagles Meadow it appears 1 is the owner of the site – although the document submitted to the council we saw does not specify this.
Wrexham.com research confirms the correct number is ‘1’ , and the Luxembourg company has a 250 year lease from Wrexham Council from 2008.
Starbucks, who has a coffee shop in Eagles Meadow, infamously decided to ‘have talks’ with HM Revenue and Customs over how much tax it pays after it was revealed that no tax was paid on £400,000,000 of sales. Starbucks have since offered to pay £20 million in tax, which Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke described as a donation rather than tax, “If a taxpayer wants to pay more than is required under the law then that is really a matter for them. It’s a voluntary donation really rather than tax.”
In fourteen years of trading in the UK Starbucks had paid a total of £8.6 million in tax, or just under four years of business rates receipts for Eagles Meadow.
Boots, another Eagles Meadow shop, has faced claims nationally that it has ‘avoided £500 Million’ in tax over five years. Arcadia is another group that has come under criticism recently over payment of tax, and has several stores in Eagles Meadow namely Topshop, Topman, Burtons and Dorothy Perkins.
The Town Centre Forum will be sending a letter to the Welsh Government highlighting the issues around Business Rates, currently the main problem being the postponing the revaluation of rates until 2017 which we reported about here.
The Council’s Town Centre Manager also promised to raise the issue in forthcoming meetings with her counterparts in Wales and across the UK, who have also made representations to Westminster.