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P&O avoidance scheme scuppered

Press Release   •   Jul 18, 2013 10:05 BST

P&O has failed in a bid to use a complex international tax avoidance scheme to avoid UK corporation tax.

The British shipping and logistics company aimed to get an extra £14 million in tax relief by artificially boosting the credit due for tax paid on dividend income.

But HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) successfully challenged the scheme in the First Tier Tribunal, which ruled that the transactions were all part of an “elaborate trick” designed to exploit the rules.

The Tribunal ruled: “It is clear that the scheme would only work so long as every participant in it was either a captive company or a stooge employee of a company within the P&O group.” It also found that it was “designed and implemented for no reason other than tax avoidance.”

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“I’m delighted that HMRC has successfully defeated this attempt by a major company to artificially reduce its tax bill by exploiting an extremely complex international financial structure.

“The Government has made it very clear that we won’t put up with aggressive tax avoidance and we have resourced HMRC to take on even the most complex and convoluted schemes, as this Tribunal decision shows.”

In total, £154 million of tax was protected. The legislation being exploited by P&O was repealed in 2005 to prevent such practices.

Notes for editors

1.  The case is Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company v Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs [2013] UKFTT 322 (TC). The decision is available here.

2.  In Budget 2013, the Government published the document “Levelling the tax playing field”, setting out progress in the drive against tax avoidance. It is available here

3.  A consultation document, “Lifting the lid on Tax Avoidance Schemes”, was published on 23 July 2012. It is available here.

4.  HMRC has protected over £1 billion since the beginning of the year in a series of successful challenges to tax avoidance schemes – see HMRC national news release “HMRC court wins protect over £1 billion” issued today.

5.  Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

6.  HMRC’s flickr channel www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk

Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.

HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.