Guernsey Press

Specsavers ‘disappointed’ by The Times tax haven article

SPECSAVERS has reacted with disappointment after its founders were included on a list of billionaires supposedly avoiding tax by living outside the UK.

Doug and Dame Mary Perkins, co-founders of Specsavers at the firm's HQ. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 24083890)

Dame Mary and Douglas Perkins were included in an article printed in The Times, called the Tax Haven Billionaires With a Grip on Britain From Abroad.

The article comprises a list of British-born billionaires, who it said moved to tax havens to avoid UK tax, while maintaining control of British business empires and influencing politics.

Specsavers has released a statement in response to the couple’s inclusion.

‘It was a shame that The Times felt the need to include Doug and Dame Mary in this feature as the couple made Guernsey their home nearly 40 years ago, several years before they set up Specsavers in 1984, famously masterminding the business from their spare bedroom,’ it said.

‘They chose Guernsey, not because it was a low tax jurisdiction, but because they wanted to be closer to Mary’s parents, who retired to the island in the 1960s after holidaying here and falling in love with the place.’

Dame Mary added: ‘Guernsey felt like home before we even moved here.’

The article reported Dame Mary and Douglas Perkins as having a £1.7bn worth, a figure that the couple has refuted based on how the Times compiles its rich list. The article states that since 2014 dividends of £100m. have been paid by Specsavers’ UK parent company, to a company registered in Guernsey. A figure the company said was reinvested into the group, so there was no UK tax benefit.

Specsavers has pointed out that all its stores are registered in the UK and pay corporation tax at the full 19%.

‘In total, Specsavers businesses contributed £280m. to the UK Treasury last year and as an employer of nearly 30,000 people, makes a valuable contribution to the UK economy in an increasingly challenging climate,’ it said.

In response to the article, Guernsey’s senior politician, Gavin St Pier, took to social media to question Dame Mary and Douglas Perkins’ inclusion.

‘There’s no story,’ he said. ‘Couple born in UK retire to Guernsey to be closer to family.

‘Found business which becomes global success; HQ in island where entire family live.’ ‘Absolutely nothing to do with UK tax avoidance’

In response, Specsavers said: ‘We are grateful that Gavin St Pier recognises these facts and acknowledge his public support of the couple’s contribution to the island and to the British economy as a whole.’

The Times list of business owners who had quit the UK also included Guernsey-based Steve Lansdown, who the newspaper claims is worth £1.7bn. He declined to comment.

The articles also focused on offshore donations to the political parties.