Arctic Systems: Full judgment released
The official version of the full judgment in the 'Arctic Systems' case of Jones v Garnett has been released.
In his concluding remarks, Justice Park said: "The decision of the Special Commissioners in this case has attracted considerable attention among professional tax advisers.
"It seems to have caused much consternation. In my view apprehensions that almost every case of a husband and wife company is going to be affected by this case are greatly exaggerated.
"If a husband and wife set up a joint company and run it together (for example, the company opens a shop and the couple run and staff it), it does not follow from my judgment in this case that the husband is going to be taxed on the wife's dividends.
"It is also an important feature of this case that Mr Jones provided funds directly or indirectly for the purposes of the settlement (see words appearing in section 660G(2), the definition of 'settlor'), by working for Arctic Systems Limited in return for a salary far below his true earning power.
"It would be far harder for the Revenue to establish that there is a settlement or arrangement of which a husband is a 'settlor' if he is paid the going rate for employees carrying out the sort of work which he does.
"I have given judgment at some length because there is widespread professional interest in this case, but I do not think that there is anything particularly novel or alarming in my decision. I believe that it is a simple application of well-established principles. Applying those principles, I dismiss the appeal."
Simon Sweetman, vice-chairman of the tax policy unit at the Federation of Small Businesses, will provide an analysis of the judgment for TaxZone shortly.
Consultants have emerged as the main targets of HM Revenue and Customs' challenge under section 660A, says the Daily Telegraph.
It added that HMRC "says the 100 companies and partnerships it is investigating alongside the West Sussex IT services firm that featured in last month's Arctic Systems High Court case operate in a range of industries."
But accountants believe the "vast majority" will be consultants and "other low-asset backed service companies, such as freelance writers". They are scaling back estimates of how many businesses will be affected by the High Court ruling.
Justice Park indicated that spouses paying themselves market rate salaries would avoid being caught by section 660A. The Telegraph quoted PricewaterhouseCoopers partner John Whiting as saying that the principle introduces a "grey area" of what salary is acceptable.
But Stephen Herring, a tax partner at BDO Stoy Hayward, described it as a matter of judgment. "No doubt it's somewhat less than the company would make in a good year, but it's certainly more than the minimum wage," he said.
Support for anti-avoidance clampdown
The Professional Contractors Group, the trade assocation that backed the taxpayers' unsuccessful appeal, has welcomed a Labour MP's call for a clampdown on artificial tax avoidance schemes.
PCG political researcher John Kell told TaxZone that the PCG believes that "everyone should pay a fair amount of tax".