It seems a reasonable question to pose at the moment – would a GAAR have stopped Barclays’ recent attempts to save tax?
Clearly, I don’t have access to the full details of Barclays’ planning but from what I do know and what I can surmise from that, it seems likely that a GAAR along the lines proposed by Graham Aaronson could have stopped it. Regardless, it is quite clear that the existing anti-avoidance provisions were not effective in stopping it. What’s more, the loan relationship rules had already been amended a couple of times to close other “loopholes”.
The point is, that this sticking plaster approach does not seem to be terribly effective. Firstly, someone always seems to be able to find a way around it and, secondly, it just leads to legislation which is more and more complex.
So, whatever your views on Barclays’ attempts to reduce its tax bill – and given that I don’t know all the details, I offer no opinion on that – I am pretty clear that it has brought us a step closer to a GAAR.