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Anson v HMRC

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Our pick of this week's cases

In Anson v HMRC [2015] UKSC 44 (1 July 2015), the Supreme Court found that a member of a US limited liability company (LLC) was eligible for double tax relief in the UK on his share of the profits.

Mr Anson was resident but not domiciled in the UK for UK tax purposes. He was liable to UK income tax on foreign income remitted to the UK.

He was a member of an LLC, which was classified as a partnership for US tax purposes. He was therefore liable to US federal and state taxes on his share of the profits. Mr Anson remitted the balance to the UK, and was therefore liable to UK income tax on the amounts remitted, subject to double tax relief.

HMRC considered that Mr Anson was not entitled to double tax relief, on the basis that the income which had been taxed in the US was not his income but that of the LLC. Mr Anson contended that, even assuming that US tax was charged on the profits of the LLC and that he was liable to UK tax only on distributions made out of those profits, the US and UK tax were nevertheless charged on ‘the same profits or income’, within the meaning of the UK/US double tax treaty. He also argued that, as a matter of UK tax law, he was liable to tax in the UK on his share of the profits of the trade carried on by the LLC, which was the same income as had been taxed in the US.

The Supreme Court rejected the first ground, noting that the context of the treaty and its history did not suggest such a wide approach to the concept of income. However, in relation to the second ground, it found that Mr Anson was entitled to the share of the profits allocated to him, rather than receiving a transfer of profits ‘previously vested in the LLC’. His ‘income arising’ in the US was therefore his share of the profits, which was the income liable to tax both under US law and under UK law – to the extent that it was remitted to the UK. His liability to UK tax was therefore computed by reference to the same income as was taxed in the US and he qualified for double tax relief.

Read the decision.

Why it matters: The classification of foreign entities and of the profits they generate continues to raise difficult questions. In this case, the FTT had found that the members of the LLC had an interest in the profits as they arose; therefore, the Supreme Court found that double tax relief was due. It remains to be seen whether HMRC will consider that this applies to all LLCs or only to a specific category of LLCs.

Other cases reported this week: