Devereux Chambers barrister Jolyon Maugham QC’s pro-bono scheme the Good Law Project has taken on its first case, with plans to sue Uber over alleged tax avoidance.
Maugham set up the Good Law Project earlier this year to hold the Government to account and planned to “take strategic cases in a lot of areas to advance a progressive agenda”.
Maugham will be the claimant, and The Lawyer understands that although he has not yet brought formal proceedings against Uber, the process to instruct solicitors has already begun.
“There is extrinsic evidence that supports a suspicion that US multinationals in the UK are treated better than they are on the continent,” Maugham told The Lawyer. “The is the perception that there’s one tax rule for the big players and one rule for the rest. I regret that the Government doesn’t want to engage in this debate.”
In this case, he will act on behalf of taxpayers to recover the company’s tax liability – which he estimates for London alone in 2015 at just under £20m.
Hot 100 2016 star Maugham directs the Good Law Project outside of his fee-earning work at Devereux Chambers.
He is so far driving the project singlehandedly, and expects to fund it through contributions from other lawyers.
Maugham, who was behind a crowdfunding effort to raise funds for the Article 50 challenge against Brexit last year, is also involved in a second challenge to Brexit concerning whether the UK could unilaterally revoke Article 50.
The status of Uber’s tax payments was put into question following its defeat against drivers at a landmark employment tribunal case last year.
The defeat prompted tax experts to claim that Uber might be liable for millions of pounds of tax payments after drivers were determined to be employees entitled to minimum wage and holiday rather than self-employed workers.
Uber regional general manager Jo Bertram said: “Drivers who use the Uber app are subject to the same VAT laws as any other transportation provider in the UK.”