Thursday, December 28, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Airlines Want Passengers to Complain About Brown's Ultra Vires Airport Tax Hike

A week ago I wrote THIS story about a cock up by Gordon Brown and the Treasury about their failure to legislate for the new rise in Airport taxes. In theory this means that airlines have no duty to levy the tax and passengers do not have to pay it until Parliament approves the necessary legislation. During a quiet news period I had hoped that this would be picked up by the national press, but in fact only the Daily Telegraph reported it the next day.

I now understand that the airlines were expecting the whole media to be up in arms about it too and that they would get huge numbers of complaints from the public, but so far there has been a whimper. I'm told they are looking for an excuse not to levy the charge and would positively welcome lots of complaints to give them the pretext. So unless there's a media backlash in the next few days it will be too late, as I am sure the Treasury are already drafting the legislation which they will push through as soon as the Commons returns in the New Year. Interestingly, there are also rumours that it may be possible for any passenger who has already been charged with this levy to reclaim it. If this is so the government's only way of closing this loophole would be to intriduce retrospective legislation, something which always causes a huge parliamentary rumpus.

11 comments:

BBQBOB said...

Sod the airlines, thieving scum.

They charge you £35 admin fee to get a rebate on taxes paid for flights, which you do not use (when the tax is payable).

The taxes are less than £35 so you have to pay them to get the rebate.

So ha ha ha, treat your staff better. This is for Ryanair and BA btw.

Only difference is the tailfin these days.

Anonymous said...

Taxes paid in consequence of an unlawful claim are recoverable on the authority of the Woolwich Building Soceity v. IRC [1993] A.C. 70. The position is as Lord Goff stated it: "Take any tax or duty paid by the citizen pursuant to an unlawful demand. Common justice seems to require that tax to be repaid, unless special circumstances or some principle of policy require otherwise; prima facie, the taxpayer should be entitled to repayment as of right." (at 172)

But how like Brown et al to flout the rule of law. This is government by banditry.

Anonymous said...

I am aware that there is no power to tax without legislation, because a prisoner sued the Home Office for deducting money for the "common fund" from prisoners wages, and the money had to be paid back.

I find it strange that the airlines are waiting for the passengers to complain, rather than they not impose the charge in the first place.

If Gordon Brown was not aware of this principle, he should have been. The legal maxim applies "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

Anonymous said...

But what about Hazel Blears supposedly in trouble over NHS cuts? Is this another Blairist anti-Brown manoeuvre? The NHS cuts are the most embarrassing single outcome of Brown's politics.

rallies said...

A sign of things to come?

Afterall he is most probably going to be PM for a few months, does this country really want someone who is happy to ignore the rule of law?

As for complaints, just wait for all the families already paid turning up this summer and finding out they have to pay another £50 or more in tax.

james higham said...

Done deal I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

No Bryan, Blears is merely a blatant example of new Labour doublethink! She cannot be chastised for that because if you think about it, nu Labour is riddled with the canker of doublethink.

wannabe rebel said...

I'm going on a ski trip on 5th Feb (four days after this "tax" comes into operation), and I'm just waiting for the demand in order to object.

If this happens, perhaps I'll have to start a blog??

However my suspicion is that the necessary legislation will go through parliament in January, so the only pain will be un-necessary extra admin for the airlines. Gordo will still get his dosh in the end.

Matt said...

They have an excuse already not to levy that charge.

There is no leagal uthority for the charge, ergo they have no right to ask for it from passengers.

Actually what they want is protection from retrospective legislation so they don't have to cough up themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dont be too upset about 'only' the Daily Telegraph picking up your story.

Dont let this blog thing go to your head difficult though it might be. Many would think that it was a pretty good achievement that DT wrote about it anyway.

Might be a better idea to keep your 'disappointment' private in future.

That Iain Dale - 'Terribly nice, but sooooo terribly powerful'.

A window to the soul.

mark williams said...

Iain

This is not going to be retrospective legislation. There is plenty of legislation that is drafted be effective from the date that it is first announced, even though the legislation is not enacted for several months. This is not usually considered to be retrospective - although that sort of timing is usuall for anti-avoidance provisions - most other tax cjhanges occur after the relevant legislation is enacted.


What is happening in the case of air passenger duty is that airlines have no contractual basis for going back to people who have already bought their tickets because in law the tax cannot be collected. As a technical matter, the tax is not collected from the passengers but from the airline - if you buy the ticket but do not use it, the airline does not have to pay the duty for your seat. Since the airline does not have to pay the duty until 1 Feb 2007, and only on flights taken on or after 1 Feb 2007, but was announced on 6 Dec 2006 the tax will never be retrospective.

Similarly the fuel duty increase will not be retrospective because the fuel companies put up their prices from midnight after the change was announced.