HMRC has been cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, and as a result of this, it has been involved in some high-profile investigations and court cases.
First was Littlewoods’ VAT overpayment dispute. This legal battle took over a decade to come to completion. The final decision of the Supreme Court was that Littlewoods was not entitled to the £1.25bn that it claimed it had overpaid in VAT.
In the period 1973 to 2004, the retail company claimed that it had overpaid millions in VAT. HMRC repaid £205m along with an interest payment of £268m.
This did not satisfy Littlewoods, which went to court seeking to get an extra £1.25bn in compound interest. The company’s claim eventually failed. This was a win for HMRC, as had the ruling gone against them, other companies would have been encouraged to follow the lead of Littlewoods.
Second was the case of Rangers Football Club’s tax avoidance. In July, HMRC won its case against the club, which centred on the payments made to employees through an employee benefit trust.
The payments were received between 2001 to 2002 and 2008 to 2009. As the payments were classed as loans, they were not subject to tax or National Insurance contributions. However, the court agreed with HMRC that the payments were earnings and should have been taxed.
According to commentators, the case had “dramatic” consequences for other football clubs as well as businesses.
In other cases, such as the Tottenham Hotspur termination payments case and the Sports Direct EU VAT ruling, HMRC had less success.