HMRC wins Goldman Sachs court case

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Media captionMurray Worthy, UK Uncut: 'HMRC's officials were bullied by Goldman Sachs'

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has won its case in the High Court, where it had been accused of illegally letting investment bank Goldman Sachs off part of its tax bill.

The campaign group UK Uncut Legal Action had claimed that the taxpayer had been cheated of up to £20m.

It said HMRC had let Goldman Sachs off the hook through a "sweetheart deal".

The judge ruled the deal was "not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue", but said it was not unlawful.

HMRC said it had changed its practices since it made the agreement with Goldman Sachs in 2010.

It also said that the maximum that had been lost to taxpayers was £8m.

HMRC welcomed today's judgement.

"The High Court's comprehensive dismissal of UK Uncut's claim puts to rest the fallacy that HMRC is soft on large businesses," said Jim Harra, HMRC's director general for business tax.

"The High Court's judgement confirms what HMRC has always said: that while we made errors in settling the Goldman Sachs dispute, we made the right settlement in the circumstances, and that our decision was both proper and lawful," he added.

HMRC said that in the last seven years, it had recovered £34bn in additional revenues from large businesses.

"Reasonable" deal

But the group behind the legal action said it was important that the country knew more about so-called "bespoke settlements", where the tax authorities make private deals with big companies.

"We are disappointed we've lost the case," said Anna Walker of UK Uncut Legal Action.

"But it has exposed the truth behind these backroom deals," she told the BBC.

"The government talks tough on tax, but does not do much," she added.

The deal between Goldman Sachs and HMRC, in which the bank was excused interest payments on National Insurance contributions, was declared "reasonable" in a report by the National Audit Office.

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