Uncertain tax positions, judgements, disclosures, EU State Aid investigation and other, reconciliation of current tax liabilities

Imperial Brands PLC – Annual report – 30 September 2021

Industry: tobacco



Judgement is involved in determining whether the Group is subject to a tax liability or not in line with tax law. Where liabilities exist, estimation is often required to determine the potential future tax payments. The Group is subject to income tax in numerous jurisdictions and significant judgement is required in determining the provision for tax. There are many transactions and calculations for which the ultimate tax determination is uncertain. The Group recognises provisions for tax based on estimates of the taxes that are likely to become due. Where the final tax outcome is different from the amounts that were initially recorded, such differences will impact the current income tax and deferred tax provisions in the period in which such determination is made. Consideration of the judgements surrounding certain tax positions are applicable to the Group and consideration of the valuation estimates related to tax provisions are given in note 8 to these financial statements.

8. TAX (extract)


The cash tax paid in the year is £333 million higher than the current tax charge (2020: £25 million lower). This arises as a result of timing differences between the accrual of income taxes and the actual payment of cash and the movement in the provision for uncertain tax positions.



As an international business the Group is exposed to uncertain tax positions and changes in legislation in the jurisdictions in which it operates. The Group’s uncertain tax positions principally include cross border transfer pricing, interpretation of new or complex tax legislation and tax arising on the valuation of assets.

Provisions arising from uncertain tax positions taken in the calculation of tax assets and liabilities are included within current tax liabilities. At 30 September 2021 the total value of these provisions, including foreign exchange movements, was £306 million (2020: £273 million). The assessment of uncertain tax positions is subjective and significant management judgement is required. This judgement is based on current interpretation of legislation, management experience and professional advice. Until matters are finally concluded it is possible that amounts ultimately paid will be different from the amounts provided.

Management have assessed the Group’s provision for uncertain tax positions and have concluded that apart from the matters referred to below the provisions in place are not material individually or in aggregate, and that a reasonably possible change in the next financial year would not have a material impact to the results of the Group.


In November 2015 the Group received a challenge from the French tax authorities that could lead to additional tax liabilities of up to £234 million. The challenge concerns the valuation placed on the shares of Altadis Distribution France (now known as Logista France) following an intragroup transfer of shares in October 2012 and the tax consequences flowing from a potentially higher value that is argued for by the tax authorities. In October 2018 the Commission Nationale, an independent adjudication body, whose decision is advisory only, issued a report supportive of the Group’s arguments for no adjustment. In December 2018 the French tax authorities issued their final assessments seeking the full amount of additional tax assessed of £234 million (2020: £248 million). In January 2019 the Group appealed against the assessment. In August 2020, the French tax authorities rejected the Group’s appeal and the matter will now proceed to litigation. As of September 2021, all submissions have been made to the court and we await a hearing date. The Group believes it is appropriate to maintain a £41 million (2020: £44 million) provision for uncertain tax positions in respect of this matter.


The Group continues to monitor developments in relation to EU State Aid investigations. On 25 April 2019, the EU Commission’s final decision regarding its investigation into the UK’s Controlled Foreign Company regime was published. It concludes that the legislation up until December 2018 does partially represent State Aid. The UK Government has appealed to the European Court seeking annulment of the EU Commission’s decision. The Group, along with a number of UK corporates, has made a similar application to the European Court. The UK Government is obliged to collect any State Aid granted pending the outcome of the European Court process.

Based on advice, the Group’s position remains that no State Aid has been received, but following HMRC guidance an assessment of potential State Aid was submitted to HMRC in July 2020. In February 2021 a charging notice for £101 million, in line with the Group’s assessment, was issued to the Group by HMRC and has since been paid. Advice to date is that our appeal and that of the UK government against the Commission’s decision should ultimately be successful so a current tax receivable of £101 million has been recognised as a non-current asset.

Based upon current advice the Group does not consider any provision is required in relation to any other EU State Aid investigation.


The Group has tax audits in progress, relating to transfer pricing matters in a number of jurisdictions, principally UK, France and Germany. The Group estimates the potential gross level of exposure relating to transfer pricing issues is approximately £900 million (2020: £800 million). The Group holds a provision of £260 million (2020: £207 million) in respect of these items.

In August 2020 the Group notified HMRC of a potential Diverted Profits Tax (DPT) issue relating to brand rewards. In September 2020, HMRC issued a preliminary notice under the DPT regime in respect of the year ended 30 September 2016 indicating a potential liability of c. £6 million. Collaborative discussions on the issue continue and it is the Group’s belief the issue is a transfer pricing one, and will be resolved as such. In November 2020, HMRC issued a final DPT notice, which has now been paid. In September 2021, further preliminary DPT notices were received in respect of the year ended 30 September 2017 indicating a potential liability of c. £4 million. Based on advice, the Group continues to believe this is a transfer pricing matter, but if a settlement is not reached before December 2021 the c. £4 million DPT notice will be payable. On conclusion of the transfer pricing discussions, an appropriate refund is anticipated for all DPT payments.

The Group believe the transfer pricing provision held above appropriately provides for this and other transfer pricing issues.