UNISON: get tough on tax with care operators

A UNISON-backed report has called on the government to clamp down on internationally-owned UK care home operators that the trade union claims are ​not paying their fair share of taxes.

The ​Darkness at Sunrise: UK Care Homes Shifting Profits Offshore report identifies three internationally-owned UK care home operators that UNISON says are “diverting cash to offshore tax havens, while claiming to make little or no profit in the UK”.

UNISON said the research by the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability & Research (CICTAR) and Public Services International (PSI) found that Sunrise Senior Living, Gracewell Healthcare and Signature Senior Living - all part-owned by Canadian company Revera and US real estate company Welltower - “appear to be using aggressive tax avoidance schemes”.

Between them Sunrise, Gracewell and Signature, which together operate 60 care homes across the country, charged residents more than £225m in fees in 2019​, says the report.

Despite th​at income, said UNISON, the report found the operators reported little or no profit in the UK.

Analysis of reports given to shareholders of US company Welltower, which has a minority stake in the three companies, indicate that in 2019 it made a net operating income of £64m from its UK care homes.

In contrast, the UK care operators reported combined losses of £9m for the same year, found CICTAR.

Report author Jason Ward said: “Because Welltower reports large profits to shareholders, we can see what is usually kept hidden. Complex corporate structures are designed to create artificial losses and avoid UK tax.

“The UK government needs to get tougher with care companies dodging UK tax. An inquiry must be launched to shine a light on practices that siphon huge sums of money out of the care system while paying staff poverty wages and cutting costs to the bone,” he added.

“The unrestrained pursuit of profit by international organisations who see the UK care sector as a soft touch demonstrate the urgent need for reform.”

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea (pictured) added: “The scale of tax avoidance across the UK care home sector is deeply concerning. Urgent reform is needed to raise standards and ensure companies are accountable.

“The entire care system has been underfunded and understaffed for too long. Unscrupulous employers have been allowed to exploit workers and put residents at risk, while taking the profits and shifting them offshore.”