Starbucks has posted its first UK profits - a modest £1.06m - since arriving here in Blighty 17 years ago. Blimey, if customers had to wait that long for their pint-sized grande-skinny-latte-mocha-frappucino’s, the coffee chain might never have caught on here in the first place.
The news was part of ‘edited highlights’ of the firm’s performance in the UK - where there are 791 Starbucks branches - released today. The full accounts have yet to be filed with Companies House.
The firm's UK boss Mark Fox put the slender surplus down to the closure of 67 loss-making shops and tighter management of its rents.
For those of you who have been stranded on a desert island for the past couple of years, let us remind you of the high-profile accusations by made tax campaigners that the Seattle-based coffee chain has used arcane corporate structures and cross-border charges to avoid paying its fair share to the UK exchequer.
Critics claimed that it has done so by channelling revenues into low-tax subsidiaries in the Netherlands and paying large royalties to other parts of the Starbucks empire - tactics which the company has denied were intended to minimise tax paid here. All the same, a Reuters investigation back in 2012 concluded that despite sales of getting on for £3bn since opening in 1998, Starbucks had paid only £8.6m in corporation tax for the same period.
As a result back in 2012 the company pledged to pay an extra £20m in tax, and these first profits will certainly contribute to that commitment. But not very much - at the current 22% corporation tax rate, £1.06m profit equates to £232,000 in tax - less than £300 per branch. Starbucks says that its total UK tax bill for 2014 will be more like £12m, but is not saying how that total figure breaks down.
Hmm. While the firm is clearly keen to address the reputational damage that the tax row has caused it here, those who were hoping for the dawn of a new era of tax transparency from Starbucks may be disappointed. Keep grinding those beans…