The Daily Telegraph

UK satellite maker battling HMRC over £110m tax claim considers Supreme Court

- By Matthew Field and Gareth Corfield

BRITISH satellite maker Inmarsat is mulling a Supreme Court legal challenge against HMRC in a dispute over a £110m tax claim.

Inmarsat wants to claim historical tax breaks for satellites that were launched more than a quarter of a century ago.

The company’s state-owned predecesso­r, the Internatio­nal Maritime Satellite Organisati­on, launched six satellites between 1990 and 1996 to provide critical communicat­ions at sea.

A nationalis­ed business, IMSO was exempt from taxes and so could not claim the discounts. The organisati­on was created after the signing of a United Nations treaty on maritime satellite communicat­ions in 1976.

But Inmarsat, which acquired IMSO’S business and assets when the latter was privatised in 1999, has been attempting to claim back capital allowances from those launches.

Winning the claim would represent a windfall worth around 9pc of Inmarsat’s annual revenues.

So far, judges have repeatedly ruled in favour of HMRC.

The taxman says that since the satellites were sold to third parties by IMSO and then leased back, their ownership never passed to Inmarsat in the first place – meaning the satellite business cannot claim the tax breaks.

Inmarsat lost a Court of Appeal bid in July, having also lost previous bids to claim the £110m in the tax tribunals.

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