On appeal from: [2016] EWCA Civ 1310

This appeal considered whether the prepayment rule for VAT infringes the EU law principle of equivalence.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal having decided that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion on this issue was broadly correct. Lord Briggs giving the lead judgment, held that the principle of equivalence required that the procedural rules of member states applicable to claims
based on EU law are no less favourable than those governing similar domestic claims [3]. The principle of equivalence and its qualifying “no most favourable treatment proviso” (the “Proviso”) are creations of the CJEU jurisprudence and take effect within the general context that it is for each member state to establish its own national procedures for the vindication of rights conferred by EU law [6].

The principle of equivalence requires a true comparator for it to be able to operate at all and whether any proposed domestic claim is a true comparator with an EU law claim is context specific [9].  Applying the context-specific analysis, the Court of Appeal was correct to conclude that none of the domestic taxes constituted true comparators with VAT. A trader seeking to appeal a VAT assessment is typically in a significantly different position from a taxpayer seeking to appeal an assessment to any of those other taxes [22].

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 44
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (25 Apr 2018 morning session) (25 Apr 2018 afternoon session) (26 Apr 2018 morning session)