BP’s announcement of its $8.2bn (£7.1bn) profit over the past three months, is almost triple the profit it made for the same period last year. However it’s not just BP as ExxonMobil reported a record quarterly profit of nearly $20bn last week, while Shell and Chevron posted the second-highest earnings in their histories at $9.5bn and $11.2bn respectively.
We are not talking thousands, or millions, but billions of dollars.
It’s clear that major questions remain about Rishi Sunak’s windfall tax as BP reports it expects to pay about £700m in windfall tax on its North Sea operations this year. They also plan to spend more than three times that much on a $2.5bn (£2.17bn) share buyback programme where they will be handing surplus cash back to its shareholders instead of using it for renewable investment or lowering prices.
What is a windfall tax?
A windfall tax is a tax imposed by a government on a company.
The idea is to target firms lucky enough to benefit from something they were not responsible for – in other words, a windfall.
Energy firms are getting much more money for their oil and gas than they were last year, when supposedly demand increased when Covid restrictions were lifted and supply concerns grew following the Ukraine war.
Astonishingly, shareholders pay less tax on the wealth they earn from owning stocks than working people do on their wages and salaries. Dividends and buybacks are taxed at consistently lower rates than income tax, allowing asset owners to accumulate wealth while paying less tax than workers.
These payouts benefit the wealthiest members of society. Recent analysis by the Common Wealth shows that the top 1% of households overwhelmingly dominate the direct ownership of UK shares.
We hear and see households beginning to struggle with the cost of living crisis and profits are being channeled into the hands of wealthy asset-owners. This situation is unjustifiable.
Western countries are torn between trying to restrict Moscow’s revenues following the invasion of Ukraine and concerns that losing Russian oil could cause a price surge when countries are grappling with energy-driven inflation.
The case for a bigger, bolder windfall tax is now overwhelming.
This must address the ridiculous tax loophole that undermines the levy by enabling companies to pay the bare minimum if they invest in more planet-warming gas and oil projects