Campaigners ‘disappointed’ by result
London – Arabstoday
Britain's High Court on Thursday rejected a challenge by a campaign group over the legality of a so-called "sweetheart" tax deal between British tax authorities and US investment banking giant Goldman Sachs.
Campaigners UK Uncut Legal Action claimed that the taxpayer was effectively
deprived of up to £20m ($30.5m, €23.7m) in tax under the deal struck in 2010.
The group alleged that the deal was allowed to go ahead to avoid causing "major embarrassment" to finance minister George Osborne after the bank became "aggressive" and allegedly made threats.
It asked judge Andrew Nicol to declare that HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) deal was legally flawed.
But the judge ruled that while the deal was "not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue," it was not unlawful.
Rosa Curling, a lawyer who represented UK Uncut Legal Action, said: "This is a disappointing decision but it has been an extremely important case to fight.”
"It has forced HMRC to reveal the process by which it reached a deal with Goldman Sachs, a settlement which let the bank off an estimated £20m tax owed."
Curling added: "We hope through this litigation that HMRC has learnt from its mistakes in the past and will ensure that such sweetheart deals, like that reached with Goldman Sachs, do not happen in the future."
An HMRC spokesman said the judgement "puts to rest the fallacy that (it) is soft on large businesses.”
The spokesman added: "The High Court's judgement confirms what HMRC has always said: that while we made errors in settling the Goldman Sachs dispute, we made the right settlement in the circumstances, and that our decision was both proper and lawful."
A series of global companies have come under pressure in Britain in recent months over the amount of tax they pay.
Online retailer Amazon on Wednesday came under fire over its British tax status after official figures revealed it paid only £2.4m on UK sales of £4.2bn last year.
And Internet giant Google on Thursday denied trying to "disguise" the way its business operated to minimise its tax bill in Britain, as its vice-president Matt Brittin was grilled by a parliamentary committee.