Contingent liability, EU State Aid investigation, group financing exemption, transfer pricing settlement, tax judgements, risks

Diageo plc – Annual report – 30 June 2020

Industry: food and drink

18. Contingent liabilities and legal proceedings (extract)

(h) Tax

The international tax environment has seen increased scrutiny and rapid change over recent years bringing with it greater uncertainty for multinationals. Against this backdrop, Diageo has been monitoring developments and continues to engage transparently with the tax authorities in the countries where Diageo operates to ensure that the group manages its arrangements on a sustainable basis.

In April 2019, the European Commission issued its decision in a state aid investigation into the Group Financing Exemption in the UK controlled foreign company rules. The European Commission found that part of the Group Financing Exemption constitutes state aid. The Group Financing Exemption was introduced in legislation by the UK government in 2013.

In common with other UK-based international companies whose arrangements are in line with current UK CFC legislation Diageo may be affected by the ultimate outcome of this investigation. The UK

government and other UK-based international companies, including Diageo, have appealed to the General Court of the European Union against the decision. The UK government is required to commence collection proceedings and therefore it is expected that Diageo will have to make a payment in the year ending 30 June 2021 in respect of this case. At present it is not possible to determine the amount that the UK government will seek to collect. If the decision of the European Commission is upheld, Diageo calculates its maximum potential liability to be approximately £275 million. Based on its current assessment, Diageo believes that no provision is required in respect of this issue.

The group operates in a large number of markets with complex tax and legislative regimes that are open to subjective interpretation. As assessing an accurate value of contingent liabilities in these markets requires a high level of judgement, contingent liabilities are disclosed on the basis of the current known possible exposure from tax assessment values.

Diageo has reviewed its disclosures in relation to Brazil and India, where Diageo has a large number of ongoing tax cases. While these cases are not individually significant, the current assessment of the aggregate possible exposures is up to approximately £285 million for Brazil and up to approximately £150 million for India. The group believes that the likelihood that the tax authorities will ultimately prevail is lower than probable but higher than remote. Due to the fiscal environment in Brazil and in India the possibility of further tax assessments related to the same matters cannot be ruled out. Based on its current assessment, Diageo believes that no provision is required in respect of these issues.

Payments were made under protest in India in respect of the periods 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2017 in relation to tax assessments where the risk is considered to be remote or possible. These payments have to be made in order to challenge the assessments and as such have been recognised as a receivable on the consolidated balance sheet. The total amount of protest payments recognised as a receivable as at 30 June 2020 is £117 million (corporate tax payments of £107 million and indirect tax payments of £10 million).

A lawsuit was filed on 15 April 2019 by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) against the United States Department of the Treasury (U.S. Treasury) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on behalf of its affected industry members, including Diageo, to invalidate regulations published in February 2019 and to ensure that substitution drawback is permitted in accordance with 19 U.S.C.§ 1313(j)(2) as amended by the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, which was enacted on 24 February 2016 (TFTEA). Substitution drawback permits the refund, including of excise taxes, paid on imported merchandise when sufficiently similar substitute merchandise is exported. The United States Congress passed the TFTEA to, among other things, clarify and broaden the standard for what constitutes substitute merchandise. This change should entitle Diageo to obtain substitution drawback in respect of certain eligible product categories. Despite this change in the law, U.S. Treasury and CBP issued final regulations in 2019  declaring that substitution drawback is not available for imports when substituted with an export on which no tax was paid. The Court of International Trade issued a judgement in favour of NAM on 18 February 2020, denying the request by the U.S. Treasury and CBP for a stay of payment on 15 May 2020, and on 26 May 2020, ordered the immediate processing of claims. Current eligible claims of Diageo Americas Supply, Inc. are estimated at £95 million ($117 million), with a financial impact of £87 million ($110 million) for the year ended 30 June 2020 of which Diageo has received £26 million ($33 million). However, on 23 July 2020 the U.S. Treasury and CBP filed an appeal with the U.S. Federal Court of Appeal, and, although Diageo believes that the NAM is more likely than not to ultimately prevail, if they were to fail, the CBP could be permitted to recover these payments.

7. Taxation (extract 1)

Accounting policies

Current tax is based on taxable profit for the year. Taxable profit is different from accounting profit due to temporary differences between accounting and tax treatments, and due to items that are never taxable or tax deductible. Tax benefits are not recognised unless it is probable that the tax positions are sustainable. Once considered to be probable, tax benefits are reviewed each year to assess whether a provision should be taken against full recognition of the benefit on the basis of potential settlement through negotiation and/or litigation. Tax provisions are included in current liabilities. Penalties and interest on tax liabilities are included in operating profit and finance charges, respectively.

Full provision for deferred tax is made for temporary differences between the carrying value of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and their value for tax purposes. The amount of deferred tax reflects the expected recoverable amount and is based on the expected manner of recovery or settlement of the carrying amount of assets and liabilities, using the basis of taxation enacted or substantively enacted by the balance sheet date. Deferred tax assets are not recognised where it is more likely than not that the assets will not be realised in the future. No deferred tax liability is provided in respect of any future remittance of earnings of foreign subsidiaries where the group is able to control the remittance of earnings and it is probable that such earnings will not be remitted in the foreseeable future, or where no liability would arise on the remittance.

Critical accounting estimates and judgements

The group is required to estimate the corporate tax in each of the many jurisdictions in which it operates. Management is required to estimate the amount that should be recognised as a tax liability or tax asset in many countries which are subject to tax audits which by their nature are often complex and can take several years to resolve; current tax balances are based on such estimations. Tax provisions are based on management’s judgement and interpretation of country specific tax law and the likelihood of settlement. However, the actual tax liabilities could differ from the provision and in such event the group would be required to make an adjustment in a subsequent period which could have a material impact on the group’s profit for the year.

The evaluation of deferred tax asset recoverability requires estimates to be made regarding the availability of future taxable income. For brands with an indefinite life, management’s primary intention is to recover the book value through a potential sale in the future, and therefore the deferred

tax on the brand value is generally recognised using the appropriate country capital gains tax rate. To the extent brands with an indefinite life have been impaired, management considers this to be an indication of recovery through use and in such a case deferred tax on the brand value is recognised using the appropriate country corporate income tax rate.

(a) Analysis of taxation charge for the year

(b) Exceptional tax (credits)/charges

The taxation charge includes the following exceptional items:

(i) Exceptional tax credit of £165 million consists of the impairment of the Windsor and USL brands of £105 million and £25 million, respectively, exceptional tax credits in respect of fixed assets impairments in Nigeria and Ethiopia of £25 million and £10 million, respectively.

(ii) As disclosed in the 2019 Annual Report, in July 2019 Diageo reached a resolution with the French tax authorities on the treatment of interest costs for all open periods which resulted in a total exceptional charge of €100 million (£88 million), comprising a tax charge of €69 million (£61 million), penalties of €21 million (£18 million) and interest of €10 million (£9 million). This brought to a close all open issues with the French tax authorities for periods up to and including 30 June 2017.

(iii) During the year ended 30 June 2019 the Dutch Senate agreed to a phased reduction in the Dutch corporate tax rate which is effective from 1 January 2020. An exceptional tax credit of £51 million principally arose from remeasuring the deferred tax liabilities in respect of the Ketel One vodka distribution rights from a then anticipated tax rate of 25% to 20.5%. The Dutch Senate subsequently agreed in a tax rate of 21.7% on 19 December 2019. The remeasurement of deferred tax liabilities in the year ended 30 June 2020 was recognised as a current tax charge.

(iv) The exceptional tax credit of £354 million ($478 million) resulted from applying the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), enacted on 22 December 2017, in the United States. The credit principally arose on remeasuring the deferred tax liabilities in respect of intangibles and other assets for the change in the US Federal tax rate from 35% to 21%, resulting in an exceptional tax credit of £363 million ($490 million), which is partially offset by £9 million ($12 million) exceptional tax charge in respect of repatriation of untaxed foreign earnings. In addition, there was a one-off charge of £11 million ($15 million) to other comprehensive income and equity, in respect of the remeasurement of the deferred tax assets on post employment liabilities and share-based incentive plans as a result of applying the provisions of the TCJA.

(v) During 2017 Diageo was in discussions with HMRC to seek clarity on Diageo’s transfer pricing and related issues, and in the first half of the year ending 30 June 2018 a preliminary assessment for diverted profits tax notice was issued. Final charging notices were issued in August 2017 and Diageo paid £107 million in respect of the two years ended 30 June 2016. Diageo agreed in June 2018 with HMRC that diverted profits tax does not apply and at the same time has reached resolution on the transfer pricing issues being discussed. The agreement in respect of transfer pricing covers the period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2017 and has resulted in an additional UK tax charge of £143 million. In the year ended 30 June 2018 an additional tax charge of £47 million was recognised in current tax which is based on the approach agreed with HMRC.

(1) Diageo has launched the ‘Raising the Bar’ programme to support pubs and bars to welcome customers back and recover following the Covid-19 pandemic including a commitment of $100 million (£81 million) over a period of up to two years from 1 July 2020. Due to current uncertainty on the precise nature of the spend, it cannot be determined whether the amounts will be deductible for tax purposes in future periods. As a result, no deferred tax asset has been recognized in respect of the provision at the year ended 30 June 2020.

(c) Taxation rate reconciliation and factors that may affect future tax charges

(i) Other items not deductible include controlled foreign companies charge, irrecoverable withholding tax and additional state and local taxes.

(ii) Changes in tax rates for the year ended 30 June 2020 mainly due to the Netherlands, UK, India and Kenya. Changes in tax rates for the year ended 30 June 2019 principally arose from the tax rate change in the Netherlands. Changes in tax rates for the year ended 30 June 2018 was mainly due to the application of the TCJA.

(iii) Adjustment in respect of prior years for the year ended 30 June 2019 includes £61 million exceptional tax charge in respect of the French tax audit settlement. The £166 million prior year adjustment for the year ended 30 June 2018 is principally in respect of the exceptional tax charge in respect of the UK transfer pricing agreement.

The table above reconciles the notional taxation charge calculated at the UK tax rate, to the actual total tax charge. As a group operating in multiple countries, the actual tax rates applicable to profits in those countries are different from the UK tax rate. The impact is shown in the table above as differences in overseas tax rates. The group’s worldwide business leads to the consideration of a number of important factors which may affect future tax charges, such as: the levels and mix of profitability in different jurisdictions, transfer pricing regulations, tax rates imposed and tax regime reforms, acquisitions, disposals, restructuring activities, and settlements or agreements with tax authorities.

Significant ongoing changes in the international tax environment and an increase in global tax audit activity means that tax uncertainties and associated risks have been gradually increasing. In the medium term, these risks could result in an increase in tax liabilities or adjustments to the carrying value of deferred tax assets and liabilities. See note 18 (h).

The group has a number of ongoing tax audits worldwide for which provisions are recognised based on best estimates and management’s judgements concerning the ultimate outcome of the audit. As at 30 June 2020 the ongoing audits that are provided for individually are not expected to result in a material tax liability. The current tax asset of £190 million (2019 – £83 million) and tax liability of £246 million (2019 – £378 million) includes £189 million (2019 – £251 million) of provisions for tax uncertainties.

Our principal risks and risk management (extract)