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How the Fat Duck slimmed its tax bill

In the 1600s, Louis XIV’s finance minister famously described the art of taxation as being to get the maximum amount of feathers from the goose, with the least amount of hissing. At London’s Fat Duck restaurant, they’ve taken a different approach. By using tax havens, Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants appear to have goosed the tax authorities.

By flying the profits to the tax haven of Nevis, which charges no company tax on the profits of foreign companies, the famous restaurant chain seems to have feathered its own nest at the expense of the rest of us.

Heston Blumenthal at his Melbourne restaurant Dinner.

Heston Blumenthal at his Melbourne restaurant Dinner.Credit:Justin McManus

Heston Blumenthal, who also operates the Dinner restaurant at Melbourne’s Southbank, isn’t the only one apparently using tax havens. By one estimate, four out of every 10 dollars of multinational profits are now routed through tax havens. Dubbed “Treasure Islands” by one expert, places like Panama and Bermuda have become infamous for their willingness to house companies and their unwillingness to share information about them.

But what we do know is pretty worrying. According to a recent report, the Cayman Islands now has 106,291 active companies, which is almost twice as many companies as people (by comparison, Australia has one company for every 10 residents). The vast majority of these firms have zero staff, zero floor space, and zero local sales. The reason they’re there? They want to pay zero tax.

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