UBS AG v Revenue and Customs Comrs; DB Group Services (UK) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Comrs – WLR Daily

Posted March 15th, 2016 in appeals, banking, employment, forfeiture, income tax, law reports by sally

UBS AG v Revenue and Customs Comrs; DB Group Services (UK) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Comrs [2016] UKSC 13

‘In 2004 two banks entered into arrangements designed to take advantage of the provisions of Chapter 2 of Part 7 of the lncome Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, as substituted, which created a special regime for employment-related securities whereby “restricted securities” (including, by section 423(2), shares which were subject to a condition providing for their forfeiture in certain circumstances so as to render their market value less than it otherwise would be but for that condition) were, by section 425(2) and 429, exempt from income tax. Each bank invoked a scheme whereby (i) it set up a company merely for the purposes of the scheme, which undertook no activities beyond its participation in the scheme, was to be liquidated upon the termination of the scheme, and the memorandum and articles of which contained conditions designed to comply with Chapter 2, and (ii) the shares of the company were to be allocated to specified employees in lieu of a cash bonus. In the first case there was a condition for an immediate and automatic sale of the shares if, on any date during a specified three week period, the closing value of the FTSE 100 Index exceeded a defined “trigger level”, the probability of which was unlikely but in any event was hedged against so that in the event of a forced sale the employees would not be materially worse off. In the second case there was a provision which, in effect, provided that an employee would forfeit his shares if he voluntarily resigned or was dismissed for misconduct during the first eight weeks after the company was set up. In both cases, once the exemptions from income tax conferred by sections 425(2) and 429 had accrued, the shares were redeemable by the employees for cash. The revenue took the view that the banks were to be treated as having paid the relevant employees cash sums equal to their share allocation and issued PAYE determinations and NIC decisions against each bank, as the body liable to deduct such sums. Each bank appealed. The First-tier Tribunal, in separate decisions, held that Parliament could not have intended that the exemption should apply to arrangements contrived purely in order to obtain the exemption but having no other business or commercial purpose. On appeals heard together the Upper Tribunal held that the scheme in the first case met the requirements of the legislation and so allowed that bank’s appeal, but held that the scheme in the second case did not fully comply with the terms of Chapter 2 in that, on the facts, the company had been set up in a way which did not comply with section 429. On appeal by the revenue in the first case and by the bank in the second case, the Court of Appeal upheld the Upper Tribunal’s decision in the first case on like ground and, having reversed the factual finding in the second case, allowed that bank’s appeal on the ground that its scheme also met the requirements of Chapter 2.’

WLR Daily, 9th March 2016