Hotel Booking Sites Targeted by Competition Enforcement
Since 27 October 2017 – when an investigation was opened – the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been monitoring online hotel booking sites following concerns that such sites may breach consumer legislation, notably the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, and Part 2 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015. On 28 June 2018 the CMA announced that it is launching enforcement action against a number of websites.
Among the potential breaches identified by the CMA is the extent to which search results may be influenced by the amount of commission that a hotel pays to the respective website, which can have a detrimental effect on consumer choice. In addition, the CMA has identified pressure selling as another area of concern. The CMA describes pressure selling as “[creating] a false impression of room availability” or “[rushing] customers into making a booking decision”. The CMA also sets out to scrutinise the discount claims which many sites make, specifically whether the discount claims offer a fair comparison based on genuine and comparable room pricing. Finally, the CMA has also identified the issue of potential hidden costs, which means that the prices initially shown to customers may be lower than the grand total presented once the customer has reserved a holiday.
The CMA has additionally consulted the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to determine whether sites may be misleading customers by using phrases such as “best price guaranteed” or “lowest price”. The CMA plans to address the above concerns by “securing legally binding commitments” from the particular websites found to have committed breaches or, if necessary, take them to court.
An Assessment to Tax is never ‘stale’, but it might be out of date: HMRC v Tooth
This article briefly discusses the key points arising out of the decision of the UK Supreme Court in HMRC v Tooth  UKSC 17. The case considered (1) whether a discovery assessment could become “stale” and (2) the meaning of the phrase “deliberate inaccuracy”.
VATA 1994 s.47, Agency, Onward Supply Relief, & Double Taxation
On 12 July 2021, the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (“FTT”) released its decision in Scanwell Logistics (UK) Limited v HMRC  UKFTT 261 (TC), rejecting the taxpayer’s claim for onward supply relief (“OSR”).
Whilst OSR is now limited, post-Brexit, to goods imported into Northern Ireland for onward supply to the EU, the FTT’s discussion of agency under section 47 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 (“VATA”) is of broader interest.
The case serves as a reminder of the significant financial consequences that can result from errors in tax planning, as Scanwell was ultimately held liable for £5.7 million in unpaid import VAT despite the fact that the imported goods almost immediately left the UK (which, if properly planned, could have meant Scanwell was relieved from liability to import VAT).
Draft Finance Bill 2022—tax avoidance measures
Helen McGhee, senior associate at Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP, considers the draft Finance Bill 2022 clauses published on 20 July 2021 in relation to tax avoidance and recent updates to the tax avoidance regime.
Getting Closer: A Global Minimum Tax on Corporations
On 1 July 2021, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that countries representing over 90% of global GDP had agreed to a global minimum tax on corporations (“GMCT”). The GMCT seeks to put a floor on tax competition on corporate income through the introduction of a minimum corporate tax of at least 15%. Whilst certain elements give rise to positive expectations, some caveats should be noted. Much will depend on (1) the outcome of future political negotiations and (2) the detail of the drafting at international and national levels.
The DBKAG & K (CJEU) decision: an opportunity for investment funds?
On 17 June 2021, the European Court decided the joint cases K (C-58/20) and DBKAG (C-59/20) regarding whether the supply of certain services constituted the “management of special investment funds”, benefiting from the VAT exemption enshrined in Article 135(1)(g) of Council Directive 2006/112/EC.