13 Jun 2012

UK Uncut wins right to High Court challenge of HMRC deal

The High Court has given campaigners UK Uncut permission to challenge a deal between HMRC and investment bank Goldman Sachs

UK Uncut was given leave to challenge the legality of the so-called “sweetheart deal“ which enabled Goldman to avoid a multi-million-pound interest bill on tax on staff bonuses.

HMRC reached a settlement with the banking giant in a dispute over national insurance due on bonuses in 2010, without requiring the payment of interest. The potential cost to the taxpayer is offficially put at £8m, but campaigners have maintained the sum could be as high as £20m.

The judge said UK Uncut had "an arguable case" that should receive a full judicial review hearing. He also rejected government claims that judicial review was not appropriate as the case involved matters of confidentiality between HMRC and taxpayers.

Murray Worthy of UK Uncut Legal Action said, “The judge agreed that this case is clearly in the public interest and that HMRC have real questions to answer about the legality of this deal.”

“It is vital that these issues are addressed in court. The National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee investigations are looking at policy issues, but this case is a question of legality and justice which only the courts can decide.

“The public have a right to know why a multi-billion pound investment bank appears to have been let off the tax they owe while vital public services are being cut. The government is making a political choice in making ordinary people pay for the economic crisis with their jobs and pensions, rather than clamping down on billions of pounds worth of tax avoidance by big business.”

On Twitter HMRC (@HMRCgovuk)) said: "HMRC will strongly contest UK Uncut's High Court application. Large business tax settlements are a vital part of securing revenues for UK.

"Without them UK's public finances would be seriously damaged."

HMRC also said it welcomed the opportunity to “demonstrate that we acted legally.”

Helen Roxburgh