Fury as bosses pocket big dividends after tax breaks

The bosses of five lockdown winners received £45m in dividends after their firms’ profits were fuelled by big tax breaks. 

Retailers and hospitality firms were handed £10billion of business rates relief this year. 

But critics say shops which are lockdown winners should pay the tax break back. 

Winners: Retailers and hospitality firms were handed £10billion of business rates relief this year

Winners: Retailers and hospitality firms were handed £10billion of business rates relief this year

Winners: Retailers and hospitality firms were handed £10billion of business rates relief this year

Now a Mail audit shows that the boards of four top retailers – Tesco, discounter B&M, Pets at Home and Morrisons – elected to pay £1.3billion in dividends to shareholders, including £44.6m to bosses. This is despite the four firms receiving £1billion in rates relief. 

Sainsbury’s has also paid £231m in dividends since March despite receiving £460m in rates relief. One MP described the bosses as ‘greedy multi-millionaires lining their pockets at taxpayers’ expense’. Supermarkets have seen their sales rocket. Pet shop revenues have jumped thanks to a puppy boom, and B&M Homestores has supplied lockdown favourites such as gardening and homeware products. 

Its billionaire chief executive, Simon Arora, received £44m in dividends to his offshore fund after half-year profits reached £296m. The company received £38m in rates relief. 

Former Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis left in October with an interest in 4.5m shares, entitling him to £441,000 in dividends. David Potts, the boss of Morrisons, was handed £62,000 of dividends as an interim dividend, and Pets at Home chief executive Peter Pritchard bagged £65,000 of dividends. The value of his shares has also increased by £3.4m this year. 

Labour MP Kevan Jones, a former shadow minister, said: ‘This is just greed but shows the shambolic way the Government have handled the financial support in the pandemic. It can’t be right multi-millionaires are lining their pockets at taxpayers’ expense.’ 

John Roberts, the founder of AO World, said supermarket executives ‘ask their mum if she would be proud’ of their holding on to business rates. 

The situation contrasts with furlough, which has been paid back by dozens of businesses. 

Sainsbury’s said they had shouldered enormous costs to ‘feed the nation’, such as paying staff to self-isolate. 

Pritchard said Pets had ‘treated all stakeholders incredibly fairly’. Tesco, Morrisons and B&M declined to comment.

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