Ritz hotel at centre of television probe over tax affairs

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THE RITZ in London is the latest business to face allegations over tax, with claims that it has not paid corporation tax for 17 years.

BBC’s Panorama programme tonight will say the hotel’s accounts show tax reliefs have reduced its corporation tax bill to nothing.

The programme has investigated the books of the hotel, which was bought by the billionaire twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay in 1995.

The show, entitled The Tax Haven Twins, will say that, although the company’s actions are legal, the Ritz’s tax bill will raise questions at a time when another Barclay business is seeking a billion pound payout from the British taxpayer.

The catalogue company Littlewoods, bought by the twins in 2002, won a VAT rebate plus interest worth £472m from HMRC over payments dating back to 1973. The company has gone to court to demand a further £1bn in compound interest.

The brothers have said they have had nothing to do with the running of the UK companies since they retired to Monaco more than 20 years ago. Littlewoods, the Ritz and also the Telegraph are controlled by offshore trusts.

All three UK businesses are managed by Sir David’s son, Aidan Barclay. On the Littlewoods claim, he said to the BBC: “This represents tax taken incorrectly by HMRC and held incorrectly for many years, facts which HMRC publicly recognise and accept.

“Directors of companies have legal responsibilities and duties to recover and secure their companies’ assets from the perspective of each company itself and its various stakeholders.”

He added that Littlewoods lodged its VAT claim before the family took it over.

Mr Barclay said family members and their companies abide by the law and pay the taxes required by UK laws and those of other relevant countries.

Sir David Barclay said: “We have always acted in a responsible way with regard to taxation and have never been involved in any tax avoidance scheme. We are not responsible for corporate taxes in the UK and are unaware what tax is paid on the Ritz.”