Uncertain tax positions, judgements, disclosures, EU State Aid investigation of UK Controlled Foreign Company regime

Imperial Brands PLC – Annual report – 30 September 2018

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.

  1. TAX (extract)


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 2018 the total value of these provisions, including foreign exchange movements, was £202 million (2017: £190 million). It is possible that amounts 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 French matter 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 £250 million. The challenge concerns the valuation placed on the shares of Altadis Distribution France (now known as Logista France) following an intra-group transfer of the shares in October 2012 and the tax consequences flowing from a potentially higher value that is argued for by the tax authorities. In September 2018 the dispute was heard before the Commission Nationale, an independent adjudication body, whose decision is advisory only. In October 2018 the Commission issued its report which is favourable to the Group’s position. A meeting is being arranged with the French tax authorities to discuss the status of the French tax authority’s challenge following the report. At this time it is appropriate to maintain the £42 million (2017: £42 million) held in the provision for uncertain tax positions in respect of this matter.

The Group continues to monitor developments in relation to EU State Aid investigations. If the EU Commission confirms its preliminary finding of State Aid in respect of the UK’s Controlled Foreign Company regime and this is ultimately upheld through the judicial process the Group considers that the amount of additional tax payable would be between nil and £300 million depending on the basis of calculation. Based upon advice taken the Group does not consider any provision is required in relation to this investigation or any other EU State Aid investigation. The assessment of uncertain tax positions is subjective and significant management judgement is required. This judgement is based on interpretation of legislation, management experience and professional advice.

In 2017 new legislation was introduced, prospectively limiting the amount of production that could take place prior to new excise tax increases. On 28 September 2018, the Russian tax authorities issued a preliminary tax audit report for the calendar years 2014-2016 seeking to assess retrospectively additional excise and VAT with associated interest and penalties of approximately £132 million in respect of pre-production prior to new excise duty increases. In the event that the Russian tax authorities were to apply the same ruling to 2017, the Group estimates further excise and VAT with associated interest and penalties of £74 million could be assessed. The Group believe they have strong grounds for objecting to the preliminary report and are preparing a defence. The Group has complied with this legislation since it became effective. The Group is unable to make a reliable estimate of any provision until its objections to the preliminary report have been discussed with the Russian tax authorities, and furthermore, disclosure of a provision could be prejudicial.