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Costs blow to Agassi after tax case
Friday December 2, 02:16 PM
Tennis superstar Andre Agassi's resounding legal victory over the taxman has ended on a sour note when three appeal judges refused to award him costs against the Revenue.
Normally, the losing party in a civil action pays the other side's costs.
Not so in Agassi's case - because the tax experts he employed to instruct his barrister were not solicitors or authorised litigators.
A year ago, in a judgment which could cost the Revenue half a billion pounds, the Court of Appeal allowed Agassi's
challenge to a High Court ruling that foreign showbiz and sports stars on tour in Britain are liable for UK income tax on money earned from overseas product endorsement deals - even if the cash never sees the light of day in this country.
The court ruled that Agassi was not liable to UK tax on income paid by sportswear makers Nike and Head Sports to his US-based company, Agassi Enterprises Inc, because none of them was resident or had a "tax presence" in Britain.
But the Revenue - which is to challenge the ruling in the House of Lords - refused to pay his costs.
Agassi brought his case using the Licensed Access Scheme (LAS) designed to provide more cost-effective legal cover for small and individual litigants.
He employed tax law experts Tenon Media, who had acted for him for many years. Tenon's Christopher Mills, a member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIT), instructed counsel, as he was allowed to do.
Tenon's total costs bill for the High Court and Court of Appeal was less than £20,000. The appeal judges heard that solicitors, who might have far less expertise in the tax field, could well have charged three times as much.
Lords Justices Brooke, Dyson and Carnwath said that Agassi might be able to recover some of his expenses as disbursements for ancillary assistance provided by Tenon. But, in law, he was not entitled to claim against the Revenue for the cost of work which would normally be done by a solicitor.