Monday, February 07, 2011



I recently wrote about Illinois’ weird use tax. Jill has drawn my attention to another strange tax. Perhaps I’ll start to collect them! This time is what last Wednesday’s Metro called Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council’s proposed “fat tax”. This is apparently a hypotheticated tax, i.e. the proceeds will not go into Oldham’s council tax pool but will be used specifically to fund healthy eating campaigns and litter-picking.

I do not know how real this proposal is. I cannot find any reference to it on Oldham’s website. Metro (and the Daily Mail) may well have picked it up from the previous days Manchester Evening News, which ran a similar article the previous day. It may have simply been a council official “winding up” a journalist. I note however that Mail Online has a fuller story, so it may well be true.

Apparently the proposed “tax” is a charge of £1,000 p.a. on “takeaway” businesses. Curiously restaurants such as most branches of MacDonalds which have sufficient seats for customers to eat in the restaurants will be exempt. A “fat tax” that excludes burger restaurants sounds a bit odd. Accordingly the tax seems aimed more at raising funds for litter clearance than at healthy eating. The Metro informs me that “Town hall bosses say they are being forced to act to curb the glut of fast food joints taking over town centres and because of the obesity epidemic sweeping the country”.

The Manchester Evening News reports that “the Council will consider exemptions for takeaways – like cafes and smoothie bars – that can prove they sell healthy food”. The “tax” is apparently aimed at kebab shops, pizza places, curry houses and fish-and-chip shops. I must admit I am a bit puzzled that pizza and curry are apparently not regarded as healthy foods. I am also intrigued as to how an exemption will work. Will a restaurant have to sell only healthy food or mainly healthy food or some healthy food. Most sandwich shops sell crisps as well!

The story has certainly spawned a lot of readers’ comments. The Mail Online has 149 when I looked (including one as far afield as Massachusetts, USA, “just another government gimmick to grab some quick cash. Any excuse will do”). The Manchester Evening News had 103.

I do note however that in Oldham a licence is required for an awful lot of businesses including, for example, in addition to the expected ones, animal health and welfare, boatman, body piercing etc, chaperones, child entertainment, cooling towers, dog breeding, dog supervision, hairdressers, highway work, motor salvage, riding establishments, second-hand goods, street cafes, and street trading, so this may simply be a new licence fee for the right to operate a takeaway.



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