UK: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin called for a level playing field for pubs after revealing his firm paid £600 million in tax over the last year.

The Robert Ransome – Overall Winner and Best Town Centre Pub Winner of Ipswich Best Bar None 2010/

The Robert Ransome Äì Overall Winner and Best Town Centre Pub Winner of Ipswich Best Bar None 2010/11 Awards.; The Robert Ransome, a JD Wetherspoons pub, is one of the highlights of the northern part of the town centre and serves food all day throughout the week, starting with a hearty breakfast from 8am.; The pub has been accredited and won two awards at the Ipswich Best Bar None awards night held on 23 March. Awarded Overall Winner and Best Town Centre pub due to its rigorous policies and procedures, you - Credit: Archant

Call for a fair deal for the pub trade

The pub giant grew underlying pre-tax profits by 3.1% to £79.4 million in the year to July 27, but Mr Martin said pubs continued to be at a disadvantage as supermarkets do not have to pay VAT on food sales and are effectively able to subsidise alcohol prices.

Mr Martin said: “This serious economic disadvantage has contributed to the closure of many thousands of pubs, and the pub industry has lost approximately 50% of its beer sales to supermarkets since VAT was increased from 8% over 30 years ago.”

Wetherspoon’s tax bill rose by £48.7 million and now equates to 43% of its £1.4 billion in sales, with VAT accounting for £275 million. The tax cost is equivalent to £662,000 per pub.

Mr Martin added: “We continue to believe that pubs are taxed excessively and that the Government would create more jobs and receive higher levels of overall revenue, if it were to create tax equality among supermarkets, pubs and restaurants.”

The company increased its headcount by more than 3,000 to 34,000 last year and paid £29.2 million in bonuses and free shares to employees, the majority of which work in its pubs.

Wetherspoon now has 927 pubs after opening 46 new sites in the last financial year, with another 30 to 40 sites due to open in the current period.