Starbucks takes tax heat off of Facebook

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Starbucks taking the tax heat off of Facebook, the vagaries of unemployment statistics and what happens when Darth Vader cuts loose with his lightsabre all hit the headlines this week. Steven Perryman guides you through the news galaxy

1. Tax: Starbucks in a whole latte trouble

The tax avoidance gravy train continues to roll, and this week it spread its wings outside the UK to foreign companies that are ‘doing a Carr’.

Starbucks has been making headlines – and for once it’s not because there’s a Pumpkin Spice Latte shortage or those silly red Christmas cups are in store. Far from it. This week it was reported to have paid no tax on £1.2bn of sales in the UK since 2009.

MP’s have started circling, perhaps spotting a new political hot potato (© Alan Partridge) to start throwing around. Two parliamentary committees are due to question tax officials over the American chain’s tax avoidance masterclass, while others have called for a customer boycott. The story also led to some rather inevitable Photoshop work. The chain also probably bemoans its choice of celebrity for its launch of stronger coffee earlier this year.

How Facebook must love Starbucks right now. Only last week it was suggested the company had depressed its sales figures to avoid tax, and that the website’s average UK employee earned more last year than the whole social media network paid the exchequer. Following a disastrous company flotation and the on-going furore over the privacy of users, Starbucks have offered it some much-needed rest bite.

2. Careers: the good, the bad and Rebekah Brooks

Jobs, redundancy, payoffs and bonuses – it sounds like a tagline from the film Wall Street. In fact, it is an accurate description of this week’s business pages.

Unemployment statistics are a political subject that get tossed around by leading politicians on an almost weekly basis. This week offered them some fresh ammunition.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that unemployment has fallen to a 15-month low. Hurrah! Meanwhile, the Trades Union Congress found that long-term youth unemployment in England has increased by almost a quarter since the coalition government took power. Boo! Watch out for both of those stats in a Prime Minister’s Question Time near you soon.

AAT reported that research it has carried out showed that mums who quit their chosen profession to have a baby face a pay cut of up to £20,000 a year when they return to work. It is a report Mitt Romney could do with reading, especially in light of his ‘Binders’ gaffe during this week’s American Presidential debate.

Not everyone is worse off in the recession, of course. The Evening Standard reported this week that more than 80% of London bankers and other City workers expect a bonus this year, and almost half reckon it will be higher than last year. Upmarket City bars and clubs can rejoice.

Perhaps the most gob-smacking story of the week was the news of Rebekah Brooks’s News International pay-off. Originally touted as £1.7m, it is now widely believed to be ‘between £6m and £8m’. Phone hacking pays well, clearly.

3. Celebrity: Jamie Oliver, the pukka citizen

Now, the usually publicity-shy Jamie Oliver wouldn’t normally grace the pages of Media Monitor, but he certainly caught our eye this week. And, no, it wasn’t because we were wondering how the hell you cook anything in 15 minutes.

It’s because he chose to be refreshingly upfront about his income tax in a Radio Times interview this week. “I’m not one of those people who fart around outside the UK to avoid paying tax. I’m actually proud to pay my whack,’ he said. Pukka!

How it must annoy him, then, that his own customers choose to steal napkins and toilet handles from his restaurants. He loses 30,000 napkins a month, apparently, and Thomas Crapper toilet flushes also have a tendency to go walkies. The answer? Weld them to the toilet, obviously.

4. And finally: space jumps and Star Wars

There really is not a better ‘and finally’ story than that of Felix Baumgartner, who became the first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, reaching a maximum velocity of 833.9mph (1,342km/h). The feat also managed to secure the largest audience – eight million people – for a live stream of an event.

As admirable as Felix’s feat was, a similarly intergalactic story surrounding a nightclub bouncer trumped it for comedy gold. Star Wars fan Mark Noakes – who changed his name to Darth Vader by Deed Poll – was assaulted by a fellow doorman who accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend.

The ensuing news story included the type of Star Wars punnage you would expect from a tabloid newspaper. Sterling work, yes, but nothing on the quote offered up by ‘a neighbour’:

‘Let’s just say Ikbal reckoned Darth had been impressing Kerry with his lightsaber,’ he/she lamented. ‘Who knows the truth, but it’s not every day the Dark Lord has a punch up in the street over a woman.’


Steven Perryman is AAT’s Editorial Manager

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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