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St Matthews: retrospective legislation and the ECHR

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The High Court decision in St Matthews (West) reaffirms that retrospective tax legislation is not unlawful by reason of European law where it counters artificial tax avoidance structures, in this case a subsale scheme to avoid SDLT. The retrospective application of legislation to block the SDLT loophole did not unlawfully deprive the taxpayers of their rights under the ECHR to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions or deny the taxpayer a fair hearing. The decision is a reminder that in cases of artificial tax avoidance at least, the retrospective application of legislation may be lawful, particularly where taxpayers have been given fair warning.

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