Soapy Joe And Spud, my how we are enriched

And now Jolyon Maugham is bringing a case against Uber demanding a VAT receipt for a journey he made in a car provided by that company. He knows, of course, that he won’t get one. Uber claims it does not provide taxi services, saying its drivers do that and it is a mere booking agency. But that claim is inconsistent with the facts, which have been upheld because Uber drivers have been found to be employees in a tribunal hearing.

No, they haven’t, they’ve been found to be workers.

Sigh.

40 comments on “Soapy Joe And Spud, my how we are enriched

  1. You would think a “crusading progressive lawyer” would find bigger causes than trying to get a VAT receipt from a taxi company.

  2. I wonder if Soapy Joe and his wife ever have Murphy round to the windmill for a soiree of canapés and live chamber music?

    Or if Murphy ever does them a cheese on toast supper at the unimpressive end-terrace in Ely with a tinny sounding Ode to Joy playing on the micro hi-fi?

  3. Ok, from that link it looks like ‘workers’ are just a lower class of employee rather than being self-employed. So by the tribunal’s shitty reasoning that would seem to imply that Uber are on the hook for handling VAT.

  4. @MattyJ

    Well, no. Employment law and tax law are different areas. ‘Worker’ describes their employment law status not how VAT works.

  5. Tax, employment law, and NMW all have the concept of “worker”, which essentially means “someone who’s not an employee, but is pretty close so we want to bring them into our ambit”.

    The problem is of course that we have three regimes, so we have three sets of rules: being a worker for one says nothing about whether you’re a worker for another, except that they’re trying to decide a similar concept based on similar criteria. But just because someone’s in a position that would put them offside in a rugby match doesn’t mean they’d be offside if it were football, and offside in rugby league is not the same as in rugby.

  6. Tim Newman – I wish that were true. Unfortunately a lot of the people who use Uber (young people, mainly) never seem to understand what the statism of Maugham and his kind entails.

    If Uber disappeared people would just shrug, or accept the whatever left-wing line were spun to explain its absence.

  7. Oh dear, seems Soapy Jo hasn’t proved his identity and his domain name is suspended.

    whois goodlawproject.co.uk

    Domain name:
    goodlawproject.co.uk

    Registrant:
    Jolyon Maugham

    Registrant type:
    UK Individual

    Registrant’s address:
    Queen Elizabeth Building
    London
    London
    EC4Y 9BS
    United Kingdom

    Data validation:
    Nominet was not able to match the registrant’s name and/or address against a 3rd party source on 26-Nov-2016

    Registrar:
    123-Reg Limited t/a 123-reg [Tag = 123-REG]
    URL: http://www.123-reg.co.uk

    Relevant dates:
    Registered on: 26-Nov-2016
    Expiry date: 26-Nov-2019
    Last updated: 26-Nov-2016

    Registration status:
    Registered until expiry date.
    *** This registration has been SUSPENDED. ***

    Name servers:
    ns.123-reg.co.uk
    ns2.123-reg.co.uk

  8. I wonder if he has any clients other than HMRC. He seems hell-bent on letting the world know what a gold-plated sanctimonious cunt he is

  9. Nominet was not able to match the registrant’s name and/or address against a 3rd party source on 26-Nov-2016

    Wait, what? Is this what you have to do now? When did this shite become law?

  10. He has paid so the payment should have included VAT. He is therefore entitled to a receipt. Whether the receipt should be issued by Uber or by the individual driver is another matter.
    Can’t help wondering whether he’s tried a polite request to Uber for either the receipt itself or the name and contact details of the driver to sort this out.
    Of course he could have just asked for the reciept at the time like a normal person.

  11. Tim, if someone sets up a website and asks for financial contributions, shouldn’t there be some checks and safeguards? If you float a company, for example, you have to publish a prospectus and get institutions to vouch for you

  12. @TimN
    Nominet changed their rules a few years back so that any ‘non individual’ (i.e. somebody they consider is ‘trading’) domain names cannot hide their contact details from the whois information.

  13. If they charged him VAT they must provide a receipt; if the driver’s not registered for VAT they should not have charged him any and the question of a receipt is then moot.

    Am I missing something here?

  14. Tim, if someone sets up a website and asks for financial contributions, shouldn’t there be some checks and safeguards?

    No more than there should be safeguards on anyone wandering the streets asking for money. But I see your point.

    Nominet changed their rules a few years back so that any ‘non individual’ (i.e. somebody they consider is ‘trading’) domain names cannot hide their contact details from the whois information.

    Ah, okay: so individuals don’t need to provide this info. Thanks.

  15. Andrew Duffin: The supplier of the service is responsible for accounting for VAT and for providing the invoice.

    Uber’s position will be that it’s the driver who’s providing the service, so nothing to do with them.

    I imagine Maugham’s point is that, in his view, Uber have provided the service and so need to both account for VAT and provide a receipt. He can’t directly force them to account for VAT, but if he can force them to provide him a receipt because they are the supplier of the service, then they must also be liable to account for the VAT.

  16. Soapy Jo has a knack for picking cases that are utterly irrelevant and designed to bugger up people’s lives for no useful purpose. He exemplifies how irrelevant the English legal system has become. The bulk of the population has no access to it.

  17. “There is an added value to what Uber is doing when it connects drivers to passengers,” said Rita de la Feria, professor of tax law at the University of Leeds and a leading expert on VAT. “So Uber is indeed providing a service, otherwise it wouldn’t exist.”
    https://qz.com/937255/uber-is-being-sued-by-jolyon-maugham-for-millions-of-dollars-for-avoiding-value-added-tax-in-the-uk/

    Uh-oh, do we have a new “tax expert”? A cursory glance at her twitter feed reveals that she favours destination-based corporation tax. Not a good start.

  18. @Andrew M: oh excellent – let’s hope the BBC start using her as the go-to “tax expert” and Ritchie can have another hissy-fit about diversity quotas

  19. @ Maffski

    “Noel Scoper – Is he crowd funding for this one as well? Yes – https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/uber/

    75 grand with no risk – seems a fantastic way to farm the guardian set”

    Crowd justice demands that “Uber pays its taxes” by charging VAT. I am not a tax lawyer, but VAT is paid by the user, just collected by the Uber worker. Who presumably would be able to reclaim some hitherto unclaimable VAT. Uber suffers no tax at all, just a probable decrease in taxi journeys, which primarily hits the drivers and those who would otherwise have used the service.

    Can I have £75 grand now please?

  20. @ Andrew M

    Hmmm… Uber does add value, otherwise they would not have a business, but the value added is not the value of the taxi ride, but the value of connecting the customer with the cabbie.

    But that doesn’t mean that the cabbie need be VAT registered, does it? So ISTM no VAT would be paid by the passenger. and s/he is paying nothing to Uber, so no VAT there either.

    Does that seem right?

  21. And presumably Uber pays VAT on the part of the driver’s fee that they keep for providing their customer-meet-driver service.

  22. So if the worker is not vat registered then they simply tell the customer that when asked for a VAT receipt.
    When Uber is asked they simply refer things to the driver, yes?

  23. What’s the turnover limit for VAT registration? 50 grand or so? So if the driver is the VATable service, they are unlikely to be VAT registered. After all, Uber says their drivers are just part-timers doing it to fill in bits here and there.

  24. Question:

    If the uber driver is VAT registered I assume it would be legally permissible for him to add 20% to the passenger’s fare?

    uber could have ghost VAT registered drivers on app for people like Soapy Joe who tick an “I require a VAT receipt” box when booking.

  25. Uber doesn’t provide a service? What planet are they on?

    We don’t have Uber round here but if I’m in London and its pouring down my choices are:

    1. Public transport. No thanks.

    2, Wander around in the rain hoping to find a Black Cab.

    3. Get my phone out and see if I can find a local private hire company. If I can I then have to explain to the dispatcher where I am, never easy at the best of times but when its in the dispatchers’ second language it is nigh on impossible. I then have to hope they’ve told the driver correctly over a crap radio and that he will turn up.

    4. Get my phone out and tap an app.

  26. In Australia, Uber charges GST (aka VAT) and issues all the paperwork.

    I assume that Uber collects the payments in the U.K., and takes a cut before passing the rest on? Do they not also issue a receipt? Is this about the piece of paper, or the VAT being declared?

    Presumably Uber includes VAT in it’s charge to the driver? So is the position that the punter pays the driver for 100% of the ride, and pays noting to Uber. Uber collects the cash and passes it on, less it’s fee to the driver, and VAT therein. If so, the driver should get a VAT receipt, and the punter doesn’t need one.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs, the government are going to want to get the gig economy into the VAT system by categorising the tech middlemen as some kind of principal
    for VAT. Uber conceded in Oz, where the relevant tax rate is 10% (all passed on to the customer, of course). I guess they’ll fight twice as hard to avoid it in the UK, but they don’t have the cash to keep fighting tax authorities.

  27. I suspect Uber would say that they are providing a service to their customers- the drivers- not to their customer’s customers- the public.
    If the driver is VAT registered he can reclaim the VAT he paid Uber.

  28. The Thought Gang,

    In the UK the VAT registration threshold is when you reach a turnover of £81k per year. No minicab driver is going to hit that level. Down under the threshold for GST registration is A$75k, or £46k: achievable if you’re working full-time, including peak periods (e.g. Saturday night). That would probably account for the difference.

    The UK is weird in having such a high VAT threshold – Belgium and Germany have €15k and €17.5k thresholds respectively; Denmark just €7k. Not raising VAT was another manifesto pledge though, so we’re unlikely to see any change here.

    Pat,

    Yes, the drivers are Uber’s paying customers, even though passengers also use the service to facilitate contact with drivers. In the same way, advertisers are Google’s paying customers, even though members of the public use Google’s free search tools to facilitate contact with those advertisers. Or outside the tech field, the airlines are the airport’s customers: fliers only have a contractual relationship with the airline, not with the airport, despite using its facilities.

  29. Taxis are one of the few remaining cash businesses and accordingly tend to be owned by a particular type of ‘ businessman’. London black cabs are obviously an exception, they are more of a 1970s style closed shop/guild with highly developed special pleading skills. Uber offers a higher quality product than public transport or minicabs, at a lower price than black cabs or big minicab firms. It also allows sole traders to work part time, often allowing them to own a decent car without paying the ‘protection money’ to a medallion holder. As a result Uber faces a pretty toxic coalition of vested interests and thus by extension so do we the consumers. Je suis Uber…

  30. Regulated taxi fares are a ceiling not a floor. Any taxi driver is perfectly at liberty to charge whatever the hell they like under that ceiling and compete in the market on prices.

  31. Andrew M said:
    “Uh-oh, do we have a new “tax expert”?”

    Rita’s OK, and better at VAT than the article suggests; I suspect she’s provided a lot of information to the journalist, who has used a few phrases without understanding it.

  32. Pat said:
    “He has paid so the payment should have included VAT. He is therefore entitled to a receipt. Whether the receipt should be issued by Uber or by the individual driver is another matter.”

    No, because the driver will be under the VAT threshold (annual turnover of £83,000).

    That’s the point of all of this:
    – If Uber is providing the taxi service to Soapy Joe, then its total operations are clearly well over the VAT threshold and it has to charge VAT.
    – If each individual taxi driver is providing the taxi service, then each one will be under the VAT threshold and so not VAT is due (the only VAT will be on the commission that Uber charges the drivers).

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