Guardian objects to Tesco ‘malicious’ claim

The Guardian insists that its reporting of Tesco’s tax affairs was an ‘honest
misunderstanding’ rather than ‘maliciously dishonest’ as the supermarket claims.

Tesco appears to be persisting with its legal action against the paper,
saying this week that it is looking forward to seeing The Guardian’s defence.

The paper issued a statement that coincided with its series of articles on
the supermarket’s tax affairs last Saturday.

The Guardian said: ‘It was always our intention to be accurate and honest in
our coverage and that is why we set the record straight for our readers in the
Guardian on Saturday, regardless of the legal action.

‘We remain bewildered by Tesco’s use of legal action, particularly the
damaging claim that our journalism was maliciously dishonest. If Tesco had told
us in November what it finally revealed in April, this honest misunderstanding
could have been avoided.

‘It now appears to be common ground between Tesco and the Guardian that Tesco
did, indeed, set up a complex structure of companies to avoid paying tax. The
difference between us concerned the method and the amount.

‘We hope this might be the end of the matter, since Tesco has always said it
was only seeking to get the true facts out and to have errors corrected. But we
will, if necessary, continue robustly to defend the integrity of our journalism,
particularly in the context of a matter of high public interest and great
complexity, and force Tesco to retract its untrue and damaging claim that we
deliberately and maliciously lied.’

The newspaper had claimed Tesco had used a Cayman subsidiary to avoid up to
£1bn in Corporation Tax. It now accepts that the structure would have allowed
the supermarket to only avoid a smaller sum in Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Tesco told Accountancy Age this week: ‘The Guardian Media Group has a serious
case to answer and we look forward to receiving their defence.’

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