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Tax Tribunal orders Ladbrokes to pay £71m over avoidance scheme

UK gambling giant Ladbrokes has been ordered to pay £71m after losing a lengthy legal battle against HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The dispute related to the exploitation of a 2008 tax loophole, of which the UK Tax Tribunal said that the Ladbrokes Group and its auditor had “artificially manufactured a fall in the value of shares in one company” in order to “create a loss in the other company for tax purposes”.

According to HMRC, the gambling operator experienced no actual losses in the fiscal period the ‘loophole’ was exploited, in which Ladbrokes admitted it had used the scheme with the direct intention of reducing the amount of corporate tax due.

Ladbrokes told the Tribunal that although the arrangements had been knowingly used, HMRC’s anti-avoidance rules did not deem their actions unlawful.

But the Tribunal rejected the gambling giant’s claims, stating that “the essence of the scheme was to exploit a perceived loophole in the code for taxation of loan relationships”.

Commenting on the case, HMRC spokesperson Jennie Granger said: “Avoidance schemes like this just don’t work and HMRC will always take firm action against them.

“The bookie gambled and lost when the odds of success could not have been lower”.

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ELS Legal is an international law firm based in London with more than 50 partner offices across the world. As part of the Cathay Associates global legal network, we are the first choice law firm for a number of British businesses and overseas clients.

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