Jersey: The Shifting Position Between Lawful Tax Avoidance & Unlawful Tax Evasion

Last Updated: 15 December 2014
Article by James Sheedy

1. The traditional attitude to tax avoidance is encapsulated in the judgment of Lord Tomlin in the English case of IRC v Duke of Westminster (1936):

"Every man is entitled if he can to arrange his affairs so that the tax attaching under the appropriate Acts is less than it otherwise would be. If he succeeds in ordering them so as to secure that result, then, however unappreciative, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue or his fellow taxpayers may be of his ingenuity, he cannot be compelled to pay an increased tax"

2. Whether this principle has survived in practice into the present era is a matter of speculation. In the last five years, there has been a growing tendency to conflate the two hitherto distinct concepts of avoidance and evasion together.


3. Lawful tax avoidance becomes unlawful tax evasion where there is deliberate and dishonest making of false statements to the Revenue (whether written or not and whether by omission or positive act). Tax evasion is often prosecuted under the English common law offence of cheating the public revenue. Cheating the revenue can include any form of fraudulent conduct which results in depriving the Revenue of the money to which it is entitled. To be fraudulent conduct, the Defendant's conduct must deliberately prejudice, or risk prejudicing, the Revenue's right to the tax in question, while the Defendant knows that he has no right to do so.


4. Typically, fraudulent intent on the part of a taxpayer or professional adviser is demonstrated where there is evidence of collusion between the taxpayer and others, or there is evidence that documents have been forged, with the intent of deceiving HMRC.

5. Many tax avoidance arrangements fail on technical grounds because they are artificial, lack a sufficient degree of commerciality and/or have been poorly implemented. Where an avoidance strategy fails in these circumstances, taxpayers and their professional advisers will not necessarily have acted fraudulently. More often than not, the conduct is characterised by a failure to implement the terms of the arrangement as advised rather than deliberate fraud.

6. Cases where there has been fraudulent conduct are distinguishable from cases where a tax avoidance arrangement has failed on technical grounds. Failed tax avoidance will only amount to criminal tax evasion where the taxpayer or professional adviser acted dishonestly, or fraudulently, in their dealings with the Revenue.


7. Dishonesty, as a touchstone for criminal tax evasion, has two elements:

Objective dishonesty: Firstly a jury must first of all decide whether according to the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people what was done was dishonest.

Subjective dishonesty: The jury must consider whether the defendant himself must have realised that what he was doing was, by those standards, dishonest.

8. If the jury finds what was done was not objectively dishonest, that is the end of the matter but if the jury finds it was objectively dishonest it is then necessary to consider whether it was also subjectively dishonest.

9. In other words, it is dishonest for a defendant to act in a way which he knows ordinary people consider to be dishonest, even if he claims he genuinely believes that he is morally justified in acting as he did.

10. A jury's perception of what is honest or dishonest conduct has shifted dramatically in the last five years. That poses a considerable risk to a taxpayer who may have entered into a tax avoidance arrangement some years ago and there is a determination that the avoidance has failed due to artificiality or shoddy implementation such as not signing documents, back-dating documents, not making interest or capital repayments on loans or not devoting time to the loss-making activity in respect of which a tax deduction is claimed.

11. Will a jury give the taxpayer the benefit of the doubt that he did not appreciate what he was doing was dishonest by the standards of ordinary people?


12. Juries live in an atmosphere which is increasingly hostile even to the idea of tax avoidance. Erstwhile law-abiding individual and corporate tax avoiders are frequently publicly vilified in the media and by the authorities as morally repugnant and enemies of the public good. Senior government ministers include 'evasion and avoidance' in the same breath and the practice of tax avoidance/evasion at the top of the income scale with benefit fraud at the bottom. Further, while the UK's new GAAR is said to be directed at tackling 'abuse' rather than 'avoidance' the threshold of what is considered to be an abusive tax arrangement appears from the official guidance to be astonishingly low.


13. Jersey professionals and taxpayers should also note that section 13 Indictable Offences Act 1848 provides that an English arrest warrant may be executed against a taxpayer or professional advisor in Jersey who may be arrested and conveyed back to England to face trial or prison.


14. While the Jersey courts have stated that they have no sympathy for unlawful tax evasion, Commissioner Bailhache, when Bailiff, stressed that in cases of tax avoidance "Leviathan [a reference to the tax authorities] can look after itself", a position much closer to that espoused in Duke of Westminster.

15. However, Jersey has been keen to signal its cooperation with the UK government in tackling what it perceives to be a problem with offshore evasion and aggressive avoidance. Jersey clearly has an interest in being perceived as a reputable jurisdiction in which to conduct legitimate business. With that in mind, the Jersey government is currently consulting with the Island's finance industry on the viability of a so called 'Sniff test' to identify "aggressive tax avoidance schemes", association with which would be "detrimental to the good reputation of the Island". What the authorities propose to do when the 'Sniff test' is failed and how that action would stand up to scrutiny remains to be seen.


16. The attitude of the UK authorities and public perception has hardened against tax avoidance in the last five years. That has implications both for the authorities' willingness to bring charges and the benefit of the doubt juries are prepared to give to taxpayers and professionals. There is a heightened risk that tax avoidance schemes that fail for artificiality, poor implementation or lack of commerciality will be perceived as tax abuse or worse, evasion.

17. The attitude in Jersey to tax avoidance has been more generous than is currently the case in the UK. However if the reputation of the island as a financial centre is threatened by the perception that it is a safe harbour for unacceptable tax avoidance schemes we can expect measures to counter that perception. The message is watch this space.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.