Andrew M Jackson's oil rig risk wins £100m tax victory

A risky strategy has paid dividends for Hull firm Andrew M Jackson & Co.

The firm's fighting fund was short by £15,000, but it pursued a case against the Inland Revenue on behalf of a number of oil rig workers on a no win, no fee basis.
A Court of Appeal judgment ruled in favour of the oil rig workers, a decision that could cost the Inland Revenue £100m in backdated tax.
Joint senior partner and head of the shipping and transportation department Silas Taylor said: “I think it was the right decision, if you like, it was the small guy overcoming the big organisation.” It was also Taylor's first tax case.
After being approached by three oil rig workers, the firm launched a fighting fund and contacted more than 500 offshore jack-up rig workers throughout the UK. This process generated a fund of £20,000, falling short of the £35,000 target.
It was the first time that the firm had tried to raise a fighting fund. Taylor acknowledged that the fund had not matched initial expectations. He said: “We originally hoped to establish a fund to cover costs for the Inland Revenue and ourselves.”
Taylor said that the firm came close to abandoning the project. But it eventually secured a fund capable of covering Inland Revenue costs in the event of a defeat and, along with barrister Michael Davey of 4 Field Court, proceeded with the action on a conditional fee basis.
The ruling hinged on the definition of the 'jack-up rigs' on which the workers were employed. If the mobile oil-drilling rigs are viewed as ships, those working on them can claim to be seafarers for the purposes of paying income tax. Taylor said that although the law was in his client's favour, he was concerned about whether the vessel would be perceived as a ship. He said: “It doesn't really, in all honesty, look like a ship.”
The decision means that the firm's clients, as well as some 20,000 other British oil workers, can claim the same foreign-earnings tax benefits as seafarers. Those who have spent much of their working life aboard the oil rigs can expect to receive about £40,000.