In re State of Norway’s application (Nos 1 and 2): HL 1989

The House considered an application by a foreign state seeking assistance in obtaining evidence here to be used in enforcing its own revenue laws at home.
Held: Rule 3 of the Convention encapsulated a ‘fundamental rule of English Law’, but did not preclude the application: ‘I must confess to having given the most anxious consideration to this question. First, the rule is deeply embedded not only in the common law but also in the law of civil law countries. An eloquent account of it in French law is to be found in the exposition by Professor Mazeaud of Bemburg v Fisc de la province de Buenos Aires , 24 February 1949; Tribunal de la Seine; Semaine Juridique, 1949, II, 4816. Second, there appears to exist no case of fiscal proceedings, in relation to which letters of request have been executed in any jurisdiction; and it can be argued (as indeed it is argued by Mazeaud) that, if a change has to be made, it should be made by legislation and not by judicial decision.’ ‘the rule does not affect the jurisdiction of the court, but is concerned rather with circumstances in which the court declines to exercise its jurisdiction.’ ”One explanation of the rule … may be thought to be that enforcement of a claim for taxes is but an extension of the sovereign power which imposed the taxes, and that an assertion of sovereign authority by one State within the territory of another, as distinct from a patrimonial claim for a foreign sovereign, is (treaty or convention apart) contrary to all concepts of independent sovereignties.’


Lord Goff of Chievely


[1990] 1 AC 723


England and Wales


ApprovedPeter Buchanan Limited and Macharg v McVey 1954
(Supreme Court of Ireland) The plaintiff was a company registered in Scotland put into compulsory liquidation by the revenue under a substantial claim for excess profits tax and income tax. The liquidator was really a nominee of the revenue. The . .
ApprovedGovernment of India v Taylor HL 1955
The Government of India sought to prove in the voluntary liquidation of a company registered in the United Kingdom but trading in India for a sum due in respect of Indian income tax, including capital gains tax, which arose on the sale of the . .
Appeal fromIn re State of Norway’s Application (No 1) CA 1987
There were taxation proceedings in Norway. One question was whether the Norwegian taxpayer controlled a trust which owned some shares. Letters rogatory issued by the Norwegian Court requested the oral examination of two witnesses in the United . .

Cited by:

CitedQRS 1 APS and others v Frandsen CA 21-May-1999
The appellants were all Danish companies put into liquidation for asset stripping in contravention of Danish law. The respondent was resident in the UK and had owned them. The Danish tax authorities issued tax demands and the liquidators now sought . .
CitedCharman v Charman CA 20-Dec-2005
The court considered orders to third parties abroad to produce docments for use in ancillary relief proceedings. The husband had built up considerable assets within an offshore discretionary trust. The court was asked whether these were family . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Taxes Management

Updated: 12 April 2022; Ref: scu.225457