In last year’s Budget the coalition government signaled the possibility of creating a General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR), designed to set principles and parameters of acceptable and unacceptable tax avoidance.
Graham Aaronson QC, a leading commercial tax barrister specialising in dispute resolution, is leading the review.
He has today named the individuals – eminent names from the worlds of academia, business and the judiciary, who will form a committee to assess the viability of such a rule and the issues they will be consider.
The latter include looking at the effectiveness of GAARs in other countries, what such a rule could achieve and what the basic approach to adopting it would be.
The panel includes Judith Freedman, professor of taxation law and director of legal research at the for Centre for Business Taxation, Oxford University, Howard Nowlan, formerly tax partner at Slaughter and May and part time Judge of the First Tier Tax Tribunal and John Bartlett, group head of tax at BP.
Three figures from the judiciary Sir Launcelot Henderson, a Judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice; Lord Hoffmann, formerly Lord of Appeal, Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong and Howard Nowlan, formerly tax partner at Slaughter and May and part time Judge of the First Tier Tax Tribunal complete the group.
The study group is due to complete its work by the end of October this year.
David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, described the study as part of the government’s “commitment to tackling tax avoidance and building sustainable defences to address long-standing avoidance risks.”
He added the group would: “Bring their collective expertise to bear on whether a General Anti Avoidance Rule could deter and counter tax avoidance, whilst providing certainty, retaining a tax regime that is attractive to businesses, and minimising costs for businesses and HMRC.”
The prospect of such a rule has not been met with much enthusiasm by figures in business and tax worlds, many of whom question, among other things, how effective and practical GAARs are.
Others have suggested the government plans to shelve the idea – but must first go through the motions of reviewing it, having made a public commitment to do so. They highlighted the appointment of Aaronson, a specialist in defending companies in disputes with tax authorities, as evidence for this.