Retrospective tax campaign warns of £528m raid on UK companies through legal uncertainty

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 Carl Thomson
+44 (0)20 7138 3228 / +44 (0)7531 780 378

Retrospective tax campaign warns of £528m raid on UK companies through legal uncertainty

24th May 2012. A campaign organisation which represents victims of retrospective tax legislation in the UK has warned that the Government’s enthusiasm to act retrospectively on tax issues could cost the country more than £528m as other countries adopt a similar approach and target British companies with retrospective and back dated tax demands.

Section 58(4) of the UK Finance Act 2008 closed down a series of loopholes which meant tax liabilities could be minimised through the use of offshore trusts and Double Taxation Treaties. These schemes were used by freelancers, healthcare workers and contractors to arrange their tax affairs following the introduction of IR35. Section 58(4) not only closed these schemes down prospectively, but also made them illegal for the entire period they had been in operation. As a result, thousands of UK taxpayers are now being pursued by HMRC for backdated liabilities stretching back almost ten years, despite the fact that the schemes had previously been acknowledged by HMRC as perfectly legal.

The Indian Government has cited Section 58(4) as a precedent for its decision to impose a retrospective capital gains tax on cross-border acquisitions going back fifty years, which have seen British companies such as Vodafone landed with a £2.8bn back dated tax bill. Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer has warned his Indian counterpart that the move will harm the investment climate in India, the Exchequer Secretary David Gauke recently told a group of MPs that the economic climate justified the use of retrospective tax in the UK.

The No to Retro Tax campaign has warned that, while HMRC hopes to raise more than £200m through Section 58(4), the loss to the Exchequer from foreign governments adopting similar measures against British companies could be even higher. In the case of Vodafone, the campaign has said that this example alone will cost over £528m – and that while Section 58(4) remains on the statute book, they will continue to be used to justify further tax raids on UK interests.

Alistair Cliff Renshaw, Chair of the No To Retro Tax campaign, said:

“Not only is retrospective taxation morally wrong and hugely damaging to the investment climate, but it sets a dangerous precedent which can be used as an excuse for other countries to target British companies with contrived and retrospective tax demands.

With regards to India, it appears the British Government is taking an attitude of ‘do as we say, not as we do’. It is worrying to hear the Exchequer Secretary say that the economic climate can be used to justify retrospective taxation in the UK – such an approach is not suited to a developed and modern economy.

Retrospective legislation is either acceptable or not acceptable. In a global economy, we can’t simply say that it is acceptable for Britain to do it, but not for India to do it. To say that it is wrong in principle but can be justified by the economic climate sets a dangerous precedent and undermines the rule of law for the sake of a short term financial gain – one which we can see is entirely artificial.”

Notes for Editors

  • No To Retro Tax is a campaign group organised and supported by individuals affected by the retrospective elements of Section 58(4) of the Finance Act 2008. The campaign is lobbying Parliament to change the wording of S58(4) from “as always having had effect”, so that it reads “to have effect from 12th March 2008”. This would bring it in line with the Rees Rules and HMRC protocol and mean that retrospective tax liabilities would only start to accrue from the moment the intention was announced to close down the affected schemes through publication of Budget Note 66.
  • More information about the campaign can be found on their website,, or by following them on Twitter at @notoretrotax.

For further information or comment from Alistair Cliff Renshaw, contact Carl Thomson on 020 7138 3228 / 07531 780 378, or email

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