The UK government has lost a court battle of 6 years against Vodafone, in a failled effort to prevent companies using European tax havens. A UK judge ruled that Vodafone does not have to pay extra corporation tax on a Luxembourg-based subsidiary.
The UK HMRC has the right to appeal the decision, and if success for Vodafone, the ruling is likely to be closely watched by many other major multinational businesses with overseas subsidiaries, which are waiting the end of the case.
In an article about the case from The Guardian, it is remembered that the case centres around the Controlled Foreign Companies (CFC) legislation introduced in 1988 to try to claw back tax from companies with overseas businesses.
In the article, it was also remembered that two years ago the European court of justice ruled in a case involving Cadbury Schweppes that the legislation is restrictive and can only be justified where subsidiaries are set up artificially to gain a tax advantage. Today's high court judgment relates to the question of the compatibility of the CFC legislation with EU law rather than the facts of the Vodafone case. The judge said that as a result of the Cadbury ruling that no charge could be imposed on Vodafone, or any other company in the same position, under the 1988 legislation and parliament needs to rectify the situation with a new set of rules.
"In my judgement, the CFC legislation must be disapplied so that, pending amending legislation or executive action, no charge can be imposed on a company such as Vodafone under the CFC legislation".
"It seems to me that all UK taxpayers, including Vodafone, were and are entitled to be told by legislation, of which the meaning is plain, what the tax consequences for them will be if they decide to incorporate a controlled foreign company in a (EU) member state."
Vodafone Investments Luxembourg Sarl (VIL) was set up in 2000 as a vehicle for the holding of investments, and it is resident for tax purposes in Luxembourg.