Devereux Chambers barrister Jolyon Maugham QC takes Uber to court over £20 million unpaid VAT

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By Thomas Connelly on

Just weeks after he launched a pro bono project aimed at holding the government to account

A Devereux Chambers barrister is preparing to submit a case to the High Court which claims that Uber owes at least £20 million in unpaid taxes to HM Revenue and Customs.

Jolyon Maugham QC, who unfortunately for Uber is a tax law specialist, argues that the US-based taxi app giant should be paying value-added tax (VAT) on its fares at a rate of 16.67%. According to Maugham’s calculations, in 2015 alone the firm should have paid the UK government almost £20 million.

However, contrary to Maugham’s view, Uber maintains that it is not liable for VAT because it merely connects drivers with customers, and does not provide a transport service.

Speaking to ITV News, Maugham said:

I’m suing Uber to understand whether HMRC treats these big US multinationals including Uber with kid gloves. Uber undoubtedly has arranged its business model to minimise its tax liability, to dodge taxes if you like, and to minimise the workers’ rights that it has to offer to its drivers.

The decision to sue Uber comes just weeks after Maugham launched the Good Law Project, a not for profit organisation which says it will bring “legal challenges” against the government. Speaking to Legal Cheek at the time, Maugham — still juggling his work commitments as a silk — said he felt “uncomfortable with the direction the country is going in” and hopes to address this through his new pro bono project.

The project’s launch followed two successful Brexit crowdfunding campaigns spearheaded by the Devereux tenant. Last summer his fundraising efforts helped cover the legal fees for a number of secondary claimants, known collectively as the ‘People’s Challenge’, in the well-publicised Article 50 case.

Not willing to rest on his laurels, Maugham — who back in December was forced to defend his working class background in the wake of pro-Brexit Twitter abuse — went on to launch a further crowdfunding campaign called ‘A Brexit for the 100%’. The case, which Legal Cheek understands is due to be heard in the Irish High Court in the spring, aims to establish whether the UK’s Article 50 notification can be revoked.

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