More UK supermarkets repay bumper virus tax relief

Agence France-Presse

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More UK supermarkets repay bumper virus tax relief

ASDA. Customers queue to enter an Asda supermarket in Leeds, England, on April 23, 2020.

File photo by Oli Scarff/AFP

In total, 5 British supermarkets are handing back around £1.75 billion ($2.32 billion, 1.91 billion euros) to government coffers

Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Aldi on Thursday, December 3, became the latest supermarkets in the United Kingdom to repay huge amounts of government tax relief received during the coronavirus pandemic.

While clothing retailers are together slashing tens of thousands of jobs on virus fallout, supermarkets selling also non-food items have enjoyed bumper sales in 2020 having been allowed to remain open during UK lockdowns.

They have also created tens of thousands of new jobs to meet a surge in online food demand.

After Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco on Wednesday, December 2, became the first supermarket to announce it was repaying the hefty benefit following calls to do so from some MPs, rivals comprising also Morrisons said they too would return equally substantial sums.

In total, the 5 supermarkets are handing back around £1.75 billion ($2.32 billion, 1.91 billion euros) to government coffers as state debt soars in the wake of massive financial support packages triggered by COVID-19.

“While we have incurred significant costs in keeping colleagues and customers safe, food and other essential retailers have benefited from being able to open throughout,” Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said on Thursday.

“With regional restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, we believe it is now fair and right to forgo the business rates relief that we have been given on all Sainsbury’s stores,” he said in a statement, adding that the company would hand back more than £440 million.

Britain’s wider retail and hospitality sectors have not been so fortunate, however, even with massive government financial support – notably the ongoing furlough scheme subsidizing the wages of millions of private-sector workers.

Leading clothes stores, restaurants, pubs, and other establishments deemed not to be essential are having to slash thousands of jobs or shut their doors completely with trading decimated by COVID-19 restrictions.

Another 25,000 more jobs became at risk this week as department store chain Debenhams and Topshop owner Arcadia stood on the brink of collapse.

While the pair have blamed the situation largely on coronavirus fallout, Debenhams and Arcadia had struggled to adapt from leading bricks-and-mortar businesses into successful online companies prior to the pandemic. –

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