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Matters of taste

Thanks to an absurd new ruling, any tip or service charge you pay will now almost certainly enrich the restaurateur. It is best to tip in cash and in secret

By Alex Renton   January 2007

The tipping point

Tipping in restaurants originated, possibly, in the 18th-century coffee houses of London, on whose tables stood jars marked “To Insure Promptitude.” In modern Britain, tipping and service charging are principally used to boost a restaurant’s untaxed income, enabling proprietors to cover hidden costs and wriggle round laws on the minimum wage. This infuriating and unjust practice has now been enshrined by an inexplicable ruling from the tax authorities in the restaurant-owners’ favour. It reverses a policy set in 2004, when, to the delight of tippers and poorly paid waiters, the inland revenue ruled that tips should…

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