Specsavers is the world’s largest privately owned optical group with retail operations across 10 countries – the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. We operate a supply chain infrastructure to support this business, based in the UK, Hungary and the Far East.
Specsavers has more than 2,100 optical stores, hearing centres and domiciliary partnerships. In addition to our core optics offering, we provide audiology services in the UK, Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands and domiciliary eyecare services in the UK and ROI. Furthermore, we provide ophthalmology services to the NHS and private patients in the UK through our partnership with Newmedica. Through this relationship Specsavers brings together the expertise of ophthalmologists and optometrists to improve eye-health outcomes for patients.
Our joint venture partnership model means that each store is part-owned and managed by its own directors – our ‘partners’. The directors are shareholders in their own store business and are supported by our office teams across a range of services related to retail, marketing, accounting, IT and supply chain activities. This model ensures that the opticians and audiologists who run their stores can concentrate on delivering what they do best – providing expert eye and hearing care to their customers.
Partnership has been at the heart of Specsavers since it was founded in Guernsey in 1984 by Doug and Mary Perkins, who moved to the island to be close to Mary’s retired parents who lived there. They pioneered the optical joint venture partnership model and revolutionised the industry with their offer of affordable, fashionable eyecare for everyone, at a time when high prices for optical care and limited choice were the norm. Specsavers continues to be headquartered in Guernsey today, employing more than 550 people who support the international Specsavers business.
There are now more than 2,700 Specsavers partners worldwide, all working towards the same vision: to passionately provide best value optometry, audiology and other health care services to everybody, simply, clearly and consistently, exceeding customer expectations every time.
Specsavers stores had a total turnover for the year ending 2019 of £2.78bn of which the UK turnover represented £1.47bn.
In accordance with the provisions contained in Schedule 19 part 1 and 2 of the UK Finance Act 2016, Specsavers group publishes its tax strategy in relation to its UK group activities for the year ending 29 February 2020.
The Specsavers Group of companies makes a significant contribution to the UK exchequer each year and is a responsible business, taxpayer and contributor to the healthcare industry, paying every pound in tax owed in the UK and all other territories where we operate in accordance with applicable tax legislation.
In 2018/19 Specsavers and its partners in the UK generated approximately £305m of tax for the UK Exchequer. This includes corporation tax paid by Specsavers companies and income taxes on distributions to its partners totalling over £51m.
Approach to risk management and governance to UK tax
- Ownership of risk and governance of UK tax risk resides with the Group Finance Director (who is also the Senior Accounting Officer)
- The Director of Tax for the UK and a team of 15 people are accountable for technical advisory, risk management and compliance for the UK business
- This UK tax team is responsible for all applicable taxes in the UK including Corporation Tax, VAT, PAYE and customs duties
- The UK is a significant area of focus for our business and therefore has the relevant qualified resource committed to effectively deliver changes in tax law that are significant to the business; ensure appropriate tax risk management; deliver compliance with all elements of tax regulations; and procure and oversee any tax advisory services contracted by the business
- The Senior Accounting Officer assesses the appropriateness of our tax accounting arrangements on an ongoing basis providing an important additional tier of governance in terms of systems and controls. The results of this activity are reviewed with the Group Finance Director and the Chief Financial Officer on a regular basis
- Regular reviews with senior internal stakeholders are carried out for areas where tax risk might exist
- Regular reporting of tax issues to the Specsavers Executive Committee occurs through the monthly board report. The UK tax team is also actively involved in all key projects or initiatives and required to sign off to ensure that tax issues are appropriately identified and managed
- When required, professional advice is sought from external advisors for matters requiring technical guidance or opinion
Attitude of group to tax planning in structuring our commercial activities
- It is important to the Group and its shareholders that the approach to tax planning is aligned with the Group’s corporate and social values and responsibilities
- Specsavers is committed to operating within the tax laws of all the countries in which it operates
- Structures used across Specsavers business will have commercial and economic substance
- Specsavers adheres to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (transfer pricing principles)
Level of acceptable risk
- Given the fact Specsavers is a healthcare services provider in the retail sector, and also due to the complexity of business model, there is a degree of uncertainty and risk which is inevitable
- Significant, skilled internal resources are employed within Specsavers and external advisers are engaged where there is any significant uncertainty regarding the most appropriate technical position
- The UK tax strategy is aligned with the Group Tax policy and is signed off by the Group board and its shareholders
Relationship with HMRC
- Specsavers is committed to an open and transparent relationship with HMRC
- Specsavers embraces the annual Business Risk Review (BRR) process as an opportunity to ensure HMRC understand the business and any risks are discussed and understood through open dialogue
- Where issues arise, these are communicated to HMRC in a timely manner
- Group accounts and other financial information not otherwise publicly available are voluntarily shared with HMRC
- In the rare event that errors are identified in any UK tax filings HMRC, are made aware of these without undue delay
Board Oversight and Ownership
This tax strategy document is aligned to our approach as a responsible tax payer and is approved and owned by the Board.