THE TAXMAN did not let investment bank Goldman Sachs off a £20m interest bill on old tax payments, the High Court declared yesterday, kicking out a case brought by campaigners.
Protesters from UK Uncut had argued HM Revenue and Customs had arranged a so-called sweetheart deal with the bank as it feared embarrassment if it withdrew from a voluntary tax code. But the judge said the setup was lawful and gained value for money for the government.
“The High Court’s comprehensive dismissal of UK Uncut’s claim puts to rest the fallacy that HMRC is soft on large businesses,” said HMRC’s business tax head Jim Harra. “In its definitive judgement, the High Court has now drawn a line under the Goldman Sachs issue. HMRC can now get on with the critical job of working to ensure that all individuals and companies, big and small, pay the tax they owe to fund essential public services.”
However, UK Uncut insisted the judgement represented a “major victory” for their campaign.
“This case has exposed the lengths the government will go to to look tough on tax avoidance and has been vital in holding the government to account for its shameful actions,” said campaign chief Anna Walker.
And lawyers said the lengthy legal challenge could lay the ground for more similar cases.
“Five years ago it would have been difficult to imagine a case like this getting off the ground,” said Angela Savin from Norton Rose. “But in reaching the High Court, it is no longer beyond the realms of probability that taxpayers who have entered into settlements with HMRC could see such agreements challenged.”