Welsh Town Leads a British Revolt Against the Tax System and Corporations
Then there is Steven Lewis’s coffee shop, Number 18 Cafe & Brasserie, which, like a lot of the other mom-and-pop operations in Crickhowell, houses a grievance that resonates far beyond the town’s borders.
Mr. Lewis, 63, a broad-chested former military man, has helped turn Crickhowell into ground zero for a revolt by small-business owners in Britain against a tax system they see as rigged against them in favor of multinational corporations like Facebook, Google and Starbucks. The town, population 2,063, has become famous for being one of Britain’s last holdouts against the encroachment of big retail chains.
Mr. Lewis said he paid the 21 percent corporate tax rate on his profits last year, equivalent to 31,000 pounds, or $45,200. By contrast, Facebook — which is based in the United States but does business in Britain and is therefore subject to British taxes — paid just £4,327, or $6,274, in corporate tax in 2014, or about one-seventh of what Mr. Lewis paid.
Facebook’s bill was also less than the average personal income tax payment and the national insurance contributions that individual British employees pay, which amount to about $7,800 a year for someone making the median income of $40,000.
That is just one glaring example, Mr. Lewis and his fellow shopkeepers in Crickhowell said, of what amounts to multinational tax dodging on a gargantuan scale, leaving the little guy to pick up the tab. And their protest is one small case study of how economic populism is playing out around the world, rallying grass-roots support to challenge governments and corporate interests alike.