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Mayes and the limits to a purposive construction

Many recent cases in the UK on tax avoidance schemes have contained the following citation from the judgment of Ribeiro PJ in the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal in the case of Collector of Stamp Revenue v Arrowtown Assets Ltd (2004 ITLR 454):

‘... the driving principle in the Ramsay line of cases continues to involve a general rule of statutory construction and an unblinkered approach to the analysis of the facts. The ultimate question is whether the relevant statutory provisions construed purposively were intended to apply to the transaction viewed realistically.’

As a statement of principle that sounds fine although the ‘realistic’ view of a particular transaction can on occasion vary according to the particular perception of the viewer.

No case could better illustrate the limits on the purposive construction


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