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Stamp Duty tax avoidance scheme scuppered

Press Release   •   Jul 15, 2013 13:20 BST

A tax tribunal has ruled against a Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) avoidance scheme, protecting £135 million in tax.

Project Blue Ltd now faces a bigger tax bill than it would have faced, had it not entered into the arrangement.

The SDLT sub-sale and alternative finance scheme had been notified by Clifford Chance under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) regulations, and attempted to eliminate all of the SDLT due on the purchase of Chelsea Barracks in London.

The First-tier Tribunal agreed with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that £50 million was owed in SDLT and that without the scheme the purchasers would have only paid £38 million. The judgment affects 24 similar commercial cases and around 900 mass market residential cases, protecting £85 million.

Project Blue Ltd argued that the transactions had been carried out for commercial reasons and not to avoid tax. However, the tribunal ruled that the company had failed “to put forward evidence of all the factors that may have been taken into account” and failed to establish that tax avoidance was not a factor in their decision to proceed.

This important case is the first to test a targeted anti-avoidance rule in the SDLT legislation.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“This is another important success for HMRC at a tax tribunal. The message is clear that entering into a tax avoidance scheme can cost more than paying the original tax bill.

“Avoidance is complex, expensive and self defeating. 

“We are cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, with a £4.6 billion package.”

Notes for Editors

1.  Chelsea Barracks was sold to Project Blue Ltd in January 2008 when the company was owned jointly by the Qatari government and CPC Group. The company is now solely owned by the Qatari Government.

2.  The SDLT legislation removes tax obstacles to alternative property finance transactions (which includes Islamic finance transactions) to ensure that they aren’t taxed more than conventional loans. Anyone who uses alternative finance in a way which Parliament intended has no cause to fear an additional tax charge. But in this case, the transactions were combined with others in a complex tax avoidance scheme designed to ensure that no tax was payable at all.

3.  The First-tier Tribunal decision is available here.

4. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk

5.  HMRC's flickr channel


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.