WPP - 1 Treasury - 0
It made me chuckle to read Private Eye's comment on the recent win by WPP of the Central Office of Information media business (COI is the UKs largest advertiser by spend, essentially government messaging, some say party political, some might even say stealth electioneering).
Either way what is the most interesting about this news was its context. There is a lot of scrutiny being paid to to the tax status of the British wealthy, with a general uproar about wealthy individuals and the odd government employee being based outside of the UK for tax purposes but taking a business interest and indeed a significant income from UK. We call these non-domiciled.
In the week following the COI announcement, putting around £200m of tax payers money through WPP's book, WPP themselves announced that moving their operations from England to Ireland last year had saved them £50m in tax.
In an era of greater transparency, this is right to be called into question. I have no doubt that WPP made a compelling case to COI (especially as the alternatives in Aegis and Publicis both have French tax status), but you would like to think that a company making considerable profit from "the taxpayers advertising business" might be able to direct some of those profits by way of tax back into the pot. As it stands now, even more UK tax-payers' cash is being lost from the system.
This has been well reported, with a nice piece a month back in MW
I can't imagine that this would have been allowed to happen in the US. Now, we don't need to be quite so protectionist as our American cousins but we do need to be sensible about leaking money from the system just when the treasury needs all the help it can get. Still, this may all be academic when the COI budgets are slashed post-election...