Total Network Sl v Revenue and Customs: HL 12 Mar 2008

The House was asked whether an action for unlawful means conspiracy was available against a participant in a missing trader intra-community, or carousel, fraud. The company appealed a finding of liability saying that the VAT Act and Regulations contained the entire regime.
Held: Criminal conduct at common law or by statute can constitute unlawful means in an unlawful means conspiracy. The protection of the Bill of Rights is available to everyone. Fraudsters and cheats are as much entitled to be protected against the levying of taxes without the authority of Parliament as anyone else. The function of an action of damages is to provide a remedy for interests that are recognised by the law as entitled to protection
‘The statute makes no provision for the recovery of VAT from someone who is not a taxable person within the meaning of section 3. There is, it may be said, a gap in the statute. But this does not mean that the Commissioners have suffered a loss for which they can sue in damages. All that can be said is that payment was made to Alldech which ought not to have been made. It is an amount that can be recovered as a debt due to the Crown from Alldech. It does not change its character as a debt due to the Crown because, when it is sought to be recovered from someone else, it is described as damages. ‘
Lord Scott said: ‘there is, in my opinion, nothing whatever in the Bill of Rights point. It is true that Total are not taxable under the statutory VAT scheme in respect of any of the pleaded transactions, but the claim against Total is not a claim for tax. It is a claim for damages, for loss, caused by the fraudulent conspiracy.’

Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Mance, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury
[2008] UKHL 19, [2008] BPIR 699, [2008] 2 WLR 711, [2008] STI 938, [2008] 1 AC 1174, [2008] STC 644, [2008] BVC 340, [2008] BTC 5216
Bailii, HL
Value Added Tax Act 1994 1(1) 7, Bill of Rights 1688 4
England and Wales
CitedTotal Network Sl v Customs and Excise Commissioners CA 31-Jan-2007
The defendants suspected a carousel VAT fraud. The defendants appealed a finding that there was a viable cause of action alleging a ‘conspiracy where the unlawful means alleged is a common law offence of cheating the public revenue’. The defendants . .
CitedGosling v Veley 1850
Wilde CJ said: ‘The rule of law that no pecuniary burden can be imposed upon the subjects of this country, by whatever name it may be called, whether tax, due, rate, or toll, except under clear and distinct legal authority, established by those who . .
CitedAttorney-General v Wilts United Dairies Ltd CA 1921
The Food Controller had been given power under the Defence of the Realm Acts to regulate milk sales. In granting the dairy a licence to buy milk in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, the Food Controller required the Dairy to pay 2d. per imperial . .
CitedAttorney-General v Wilts United Dairies Ltd HL 1922
The House heard an appeal by the Attorney-General against a finding that an imposition of duty on milk sales was unlawful.
Held: The appeal failed. The levy was unlawful. Lord Buckmaster said: ‘Neither of those two enactments enabled the Food . .
CitedInland Revenue Commissioners v Hambrook 1956
The Revenue claimed for loss resulting from its being deprived of the services of a taxing officer due to a vehicle accident.
Held: The action was dismissed. An action for that kind of loss did not lie where its relationship was with an . .
CitedAutologic Holdings Plc and others v Commissioners of Inland Revenue HL 28-Jul-2005
Taxpayer companies challenged the way that the revenue restricted claims for group Corporation Tax relief for subsidiary companies in Europe. The issue was awaiting a decision of the European Court. The Revenue said that the claims now being made by . .
CitedLonrho Ltd v Shell Petroleum Co Ltd (No 2) HL 1-Apr-1981
No General Liability in Tort for Wrongful Acts
The plaintiff had previously constructed an oil supply pipeline from Beira to Mozambique. After Rhodesia declared unilateral independence, it became a criminal offence to supply to Rhodesia without a licence. The plaintiff ceased supply as required, . .
CitedLonrho Ltd v Shell Petroleum Co Ltd (No 2) CA 6-Mar-1981
Lonrho had supplied oil to Southern Rhodesia. It gave up this profitable business when the UK imposed sanctions on that country. It claimed that Shell had conspired unlawfully to break the sanctions, thereby prolonging the illegal regime in Southern . .
CitedMarrinan v Vibart CA 1962
The court considered an action in the form an attempt to circumvent the immunity of a witness at civil law by alleging a conspiracy.
Held: The claim was rejected. The court considered the basis of the immunity from action given to witnesses. . .
CitedCrofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Company Limited v Veitch HL 15-Dec-1941
The plaintiffs sought an interdict against the respondents, a dockers’ union, who sought to impose an embargo on their tweeds as they passed through the port of Stornoway.
Held: A trade embargo was not tortious because the predominant purpose . .
CitedCrofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch SCS 1940
Lord Justice Clerk Aitchison said: ‘When the end of a combination is not a crime or a tort in the accepted sense, and the means are not in the accepted sense criminal or tortious – cases which give rise to no difficulty – the question always is – . .
CitedAllen v Flood HL 14-Dec-1898
Tort of Malicicious Inducement not Committed
Mr Flood had in the course of his duties as a trade union official told the employers of some ironworkers that the ironworkers would go on strike, unless the employers ceased employing some woodworkers, who the ironworkers believed had worked on . .
CitedSorrell v Smith HL 1925
Torts of Conspiracy by Unlawful Means
The plaintiff had struck the first blow in a commercial battle between the parties, and the defendant then defended himself, whereupon the plaintiff sued him.
Lord Cave quoted the French saying: ‘cet animal est tres mechant; quand on . .
CitedHargreaves v Bretherton 1959
The Plaintiff pleaded that the First Defendant police officer had falsely and maliciously and without justification or excuse committed perjury at the Plaintiff’s trial on charges of criminal offences and that as a result the Plaintiff had been . .
CitedQuinn v Leathem HL 5-Aug-1901
Unlawful Means Conspiracy has two forms
Quinn was treasurer of a Belfast butchers’ association. Leathem, who traded as a butcher, employed some non-union men, although when the union made difficulties he asked for them to be admitted to the union, and offered to pay their dues. The union . .
CitedDouglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others; similar HL 2-May-2007
In Douglas, the claimants said that the defendants had interfered with their contract to provide exclusive photographs of their wedding to a competing magazine, by arranging for a third party to infiltrate and take and sell unauthorised photographs. . .
CitedSnook v London and West Riding Investments Ltd CA 1967
Sham requires common intent to create other result
The court considered a claim by a hire-purchase company for the return of a vehicle. The bailee said the agreement was a sham.
Held: The word ‘sham’ should only be used to describe an act or document where the parties have a common intention . .
CitedOptigen Ltd, Fulcrum Electronics Ltd, Bond House Systems Ltd v Commissioners of Customs and Excise ECJ 12-Jan-2006
ECJ Sixth VAT Directive – Article 2(1), Article 4(1) and (2) and Article 5(1) – Deduction of input tax – Economic activity – Taxable person acting as such – Supply of goods – Transaction forming part of a chain . .
CitedMogul Steamship Company Limited v McGregor Gow and Co QBD 10-Aug-1885
Ship owners formed themselves into an association to protect their trading interests which then caused damage to rival ship owners. The plaintiffs complained about being kept out of the conference of shipowners trading between China and London.
CitedYukong Lines Ltd v Rendsburg Investments Corporation and Others (No 2) QBD 23-Sep-1997
Repudiation by charterer: Funds were transferred by a charterer’s ‘alter ego’ to another company controlled by him with intent to defeat owner’s claim – whether ‘alter ego’ acting as undisclosed principal of charterer – whether permissible to pierce . .
CitedMbasogo, President of the State of Equatorial Guinea and Another v Logo Ltd and others CA 23-Oct-2006
Foreign Public Law Not Enforceable Here
The claimant alleged a conspiracy by the defendants for his overthrow by means of a private coup d’etat. The defendants denied that the court had jurisdiction. The claimants appealed dismissal of their claim to damages.
Held: The claims were . .
CitedRegina v Clarence CCCR 20-Nov-1888
The defendant knew that he had gonorrhea. He had intercourse with his wife, and infected her. She would not have consented had she known. He appealed his convictions for assault and causing grievous bodily harm.
Held: ‘The question in this . .
CitedCutler v Wandsworth Stadium Ltd HL 1949
The Act required the occupier of a licensed racetrack to take all steps necessary to secure that, so long as a totalisator was being lawfully operated on the track, there was available for bookmakers space on the track where they could conveniently . .
CitedRookes v Barnard (No 1) HL 21-Jan-1964
The court set down the conditions for the award of exemplary damages. There are two categories. The first is where there has been oppressive or arbitrary conduct by a defendant. Cases in the second category are those in which the defendant’s conduct . .
CitedDaily Mirror Newspapers Ltd v Gardner CA 1968
The Federation of Retail Newsagents decided to boycott the Daily Mirror for a week to persuade its publishers to pay higher margins, and advised them accordingly. The publishers sought an injunction saying the Federation was procuring a breach of . .
DoubtedMichaels and Michaels v Taylor Woodrow Developments Ltd, etc ChD 19-Apr-2000
The respondents sought to strike out the claim for conspiracy and failure to comply with the Act. The respondent was landlord of premises occupied by the claimants. They had served a notice under the Act of their intention to sell.
Held: The . .
CitedSurzur Overseas Ltd v Koros and others CA 25-Feb-1999
A defendant to a worldwide Mareva injunction had failed to give full disclosure of all his assets in an affidavit filed with the court. False evidence as to sale of the assets in question was later manufactured and placed before the court. The . .
CitedInland Revenue Commissioners v Goldblatt 1972
In a winding up case, the Commissioners can if necessary proceed against a receiver for misfeasance. . .
CitedEx parte Island Records CA 1978
An injunction is available to any person who can show that a private right or interest has been interfered with by a criminal act. . .
CitedRCA Corporation v Pollard CA 1982
The illegal activities of bootleggers who had made unauthorised recordings of concerts, diminished the profitability of contracts granting to the plaintiffs the exclusive right to exploit recordings by Elvis Presley.
Held: The defendant’s . .
CitedW T Ramsay Ltd v Inland Revenue Commissioners HL 12-Mar-1981
The taxpayers used schemes to create allowable losses, and now appealed assessment to tax. The schemes involved a series of transactions none of which were a sham, but which had the effect of cancelling each other out.
Held: If the true nature . .
CitedOren, Tiny Love Limited v Red Box Toy Factory Limited, Red Box Toy (UK) Limited, Index Limited, Martin Yaffe International Limited, Argos Distributors Limited PatC 1-Feb-1999
One plaintiff was the exclusive licensee of a registered design. The defendant sold articles alleged to infringe the design right. The registered owner had a statutory right to sue for infringement. But the question was whether the licensee could . .
CitedRegina v Mavji CACD 1987
The court considered the offence of cheating the public revenue.
Held: Cheating might include any form of fraudulent conduct which resulted in diverting money from the revenue and depriving the revenue of money to which it was entitled. . .
CitedMetall und Rohstoff AG v Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette Inc CA 1990
There was a complicated commercial dispute involving allegations of conspiracy. A claim by the plaintiffs for inducing or procuring a breach of contract would have been statute-barred in New York.
Held: Slade LJ said: ‘The judge’s approach to . .
CitedRex v Bainbridge 1782
. .
CitedRegina v Hudson 1956
To avoid the payment of tax by positive false representations constitutes a fraud on the Crown and a fraud on the public. It is a common law offence and is indictable as such. . .
CitedWoolwich Equitable Building Society v Inland Revenue Commissioners (2) HL 20-Jul-1992
The society had set out to assert that regulations were unlawful in creating a double taxation. It paid money on account of the tax demanded. It won and recovered the sums paid, but the revenue refused to pay any interest accrued on the sums paid. . .
CitedDeutsche Morgan Grenfell Group Plc v Inland Revenue and Another HL 25-Oct-2006
The tax payer had overpaid Advance Corporation Tax under an error of law. It sought repayment. The revenue contended that the claim was time barred.
Held: The claim was in restitution, and the limitation period began to run from the date when . .
CitedCommissioners of Customs and Excise, Attorney General v Federation of Technological Industries and Others ECJ 11-May-2006
ECJ (Taxation) C-197/03 Sixth VAT Directive – Articles 21(3) and 22(8) – National measures to combat fraud – Joint and several liability for the payment of VAT – Provision of security for VAT payable by another . .
CitedHenderson v Merrett Syndicates Ltd HL 25-Jul-1994
Lloyds Agents Owe Care Duty to Member; no Contract
Managing agents conducted the financial affairs of the Lloyds Names belonging to the syndicates under their charge. It was alleged that they managed these affairs with a lack of due careleading to enormous losses.
Held: The assumption of . .
CitedMarcic v Thames Water Utilities Limited HL 4-Dec-2003
The claimant’s house was regularly flooded by waters including also foul sewage from the respondent’s neighbouring premises. He sought damages and an injunction. The defendants sought to restrict the claimant to his statutory rights.
Held: The . .
CitedJohnson v Unisys Ltd HL 23-Mar-2001
The claimant contended for a common law remedy covering the same ground as the statutory right available to him under the Employment Rights Act 1996 through the Employment Tribunal system.
Held: The statutory system for compensation for unfair . .
CitedShiloh Spinners Ltd v Harding HL 13-Dec-1972
A right of re-entry had been reserved in the lease on the assignment (and not on the initial grant) of a term of years in order to reinforce covenants (to support, fence and repair) which were taken for the benefit of other retained land of the . .
CitedMacNiven (Inspector of Taxes) v Westmoreland Investments Ltd HL 15-Feb-2001
The fact that a payment of interest was made only to create a tax advantage did not prevent its being properly claimed. Interest was paid for the purposes of setting it against tax, when the debt was discharged. A company with substantial losses had . .

Cited by:
CitedChild Poverty Action Group, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary Of State for Work and Pensions CA 14-Oct-2009
CPAG appealed against a refusal of a declaration that the respondent could use only the 1992 Act to recover overpayment of benefits where there had been neither misrepresentation nor non-disclosure.
Held: The appeal succeeded, and the court . .
CitedDigicel (St Lucia) Ltd and Others v Cable and Wireless Plc and Others ChD 15-Apr-2010
The claimants alleged breaches of legislation by members of the group of companies named as defendants giving rise to claims in conspiracy to injure by unlawful means. In effect they had been denied the opportunity to make interconnections with . .
CitedMobilx Ltd and Others v HM Revenue and Customs; Blue Sphere Global Ltd v Same and similar CA 12-May-2010
Each company sought repayment of input VAT. HMRC refused, saying that the transactions were the end-product of a fraud on it, and that even if the taxpayer did not know that a fraud was involved, it should have been aware that one was and acted . .
CitedThe Child Poverty Action Group v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions SC 8-Dec-2010
The Action Group had obtained a declaration that, where an overpayment of benefits had arisen due to a miscalculation by the officers of the Department, any process of recovering the overpayment must be by the Act, and that the Department could not . .
AppliedThe Racing Partnership Ltd and Others v Done Brothers (Cash Betting) Ltd and Others ChD 8-May-2019
Actions concerning the alleged infringement of the claimants’ rights in respect of data relating to horseracing. The claimant had provided horse race betting odds (Betting shows) to race course owners. A rival company had provided similar data to . .
CitedThe Racing Partnership Ltd and Others v Sports Information Services Ltd CA 9-Oct-2020
The court looked at the limitations: (1) the legal protection of sports data and other information which is not subject to traditional intellectual property rights; (2) the scope of an action under the equitable doctrine of breach of confidence or . .
CitedJSC BTA Bank v Khrapunov SC 21-Mar-2018
A had been chairman of the claimant bank. After removal, A fled to the UK, obtaining asylum. The bank then claimed embezzlement, and was sentenced for contempt after failing to disclose assets when ordered, but fled the UK. The Appellant, K, was A’s . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

VAT, Torts – Other, Customs and Excise, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.266167