Tax barrister and campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC has delivered a ‘letter before action’ to Uber’s London headquarters as a formal precursor to launching legal proceedings in the High Court next month.
Mr Maugham is director of the Good Law Project, a pro-bono initiative that describes itself as using “strategic legal cases to both change how the law works and to drive demand for further law change“. He claims that Uber owes the UK at least £20 million in value-added tax (VAT), and is suing Uber for a copy of a VAT receipt on a journey he took last week. While the claim sum is nearly negligible, the consequences of Uber having to provide him with that receipt are potentially enormous. It amounts to an admission that Uber is liable to charge VAT, and therefore owes massive sums of VAT to HM Revenue and Commissions (HMRC).
Mr Maugham says that he is mounting this challenge to understand “whether HMRC treats these big US multinationals… with kid gloves.” An employment tribunal case last year ruled that Uber supplied transport services and should charge VAT on its fares, the payment of which is owed to HMRC. Uber is appealing against the tribunal decision and maintains that it is not a transport provider but merely a platform for drivers who provide transport services.