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This week's opinion: 13 May 2021

11 May 2021 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4791 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
National press tax reporting can be misleading

Press reporting of taxation matters continues to concern me. Two recent stories illustrate the problem. The first is the publication of Amazon’s result. This produced a flurry of headlines, of which this is typical: £38bn sales ... how did Amazon pay no corporation tax? I inwardly groaned at reading this, wondering again how presumably financially literate journalists could confuse turnover with profit. Second are the reports of the Gary Lineker case. Many writers assumed that Mr Lineker had a service company and was taking out profits as dividends, whereas it was clear that he was operating through a partnership. But more importantly the lurid headlines – Gary Lineker pursued by HMRC over £5m tax bill – completely distort the sums at stake. Even if IR35 does apply, significant tax has already been paid so the actual tax in dispute is only a fraction of the headline amounts. 

Does this matter? I think it does. News outlets are not technical journals and nobody would expect to see reports there referencing obscure points of law. But headlines like these are misleading and add to a public narrative about the tax system which is, at best distorted and in many cases wrong. 

I have no inside knowledge of the tax affairs of Amazon or Gary Lineker. If there are questions to be answered then it is right that the due process of law is followed. But please let us have some balanced and well-informed reporting. In a recent speech ( the financial secretary, Norman Jesse, said public trust is a basic aspect of all taxation. He was talking about HMRC but his words are equally apposite in this wider context. 

If you do one thing...

Watch the announcement of the 2021 Taxation Awards at 4pm on Thursday 13 May, with special guest speaker CIOT president Peter Rayney (

Issue: 4791 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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