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  1. Fast-food giant paid out record dividends to shareholders while claiming furlough payments and using a ‘circular’ scheme to lower its tax bill. McDonald's claimed £872m in taxpayer-funded Covid support while benefiting from a tax avoidance scheme that will deprive the UK government of hundreds of millions of pounds in tax, according to a new report. The fast-food giant paid out a record $3.75bn (£2.8bn) to shareholders in 2020 as its drive-through restaurants remained open while many competitors were forced to close. Throughout the pandemic, McDonald's benefited from £297m in furlough payments, £143m through Eat Out to Help Out, £60m from business rates relief. And £372m from a VAT cut, research by campaign group War on Want calculated. McDonald's did not dispute the figures but said it disagreed with the "inaccurate characterizations used to build a misleading narrative". War on Want called for an HMRC investigation into McDonald's tax affairs which it estimated will deprive the UK government of £295m over 10 years by using a circular, paper transaction. P.S: Revealed In 2022 - Best Day Trading Strategies for Beginners! Under the 2016 deal, McDonald's UK subsidiary paid $3.55bn (£2.7bn) for the rights to collect fees in Asia from another McDonald's company in Singapore – a low-tax country. The money was then returned as a dividend which was not taxable in the UK. McDonald's was also allowed to claim further tax relief by accounting for the depreciation of the Asian rights over time. Owen Espley, the senior economic justice campaigner at War on Want, said McDonald's shareholders' dividends had been "inflated" by public funds during the pandemic. McDonald’s has been driving billions of its global income through the City of London – but not stopping to pay its fair amount of UK tax," he said. "Now UK politicians want ordinary workers to pay for the bailouts big business received – instead of cracking down on corporate tax dodgers. That's why we're calling on HMRC to investigate McDonald’s.” War on Want claims that a probe is justified because the primary aim of McDonald’s Singapore structure “appears to be to create a tax avoidance scheme”. It is not the first time that McDonald’s tax affairs have been criticized. In 2015, unions and campaigners revealed details of how the company had shifted millions through low-tax Luxembourg. The European Commission’s subsequent investigation found that McDonald’s tax arrangements were unfair, but not illegal. Profitable businesses have been under pressure to return the financial support they received from the government during the pandemic. Large supermarkets were among the first to hand back tax breaks they received after reporting bumper sales during lockdowns. A McDonald's spokesperson said: “The majority of McDonald’s restaurants in the UK are owned and operated by franchisees who faced varying challenges As independent local business people due to the Covid pandemic, and as a result, utilized government measures designed to support businesses and protect jobs." Independent!
  2. Bill Gates said Friday that the risks of severe disease from Covid-19 have “dramatically reduced” but another pandemic is all but certain. Speaking to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at Germany’s annual Munich Security Conference, Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that a potential new pandemic would likely stem from a different pathogen to that of the coronavirus family. But he added that advances in medical technology should help the world do a better job of fighting it — if investments are made now. “We’ll have another pandemic. It will be a different pathogen next time,” Gates said. Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Gates said the worst effects have faded as huge swathes of the global population have gained some level of immunity. Its severity has also waned with the latest omicron variant. However, Gates said that in many places that were due to the virus itself, which creates a level of immunity, and has “done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines.” As per express news, “The chance of severe disease, which is mainly associated with being elderly and having obesity or diabetes, those risks are now dramatically reduced because of that infection exposure,” Gates said it was already “too late” to reach the World Health Organization’s goal to vaccinate 70% of the global population by mid-2022. Currently, 61.9% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. He added that the world should move faster in the future to develop and distribute vaccines, calling on governments to invest now. “Next time we should try and make it, instead of two years, we should make it more like six months,” Gates said, adding that standardized platforms, including messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, would make that possible. “The cost of being ready for the next pandemic is not that large. It’s not like climate change. If we’re rational, yes, the next time we’ll catch it early.” Gates, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has partnered with the U.K.’s Wellcome Trust to donate $300 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which helped form the Covax program to deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. The CEPI is aiming to raise $3.5 billion in an effort to cut the time required to develop a new vaccine to just 100 days.

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