Marks & Spencer Wins U.K. Supreme Court Ruling in Tax Dispute

Marks & Spencer Group Plc (MKS) won a U.K. Supreme Court case, easing restrictions on its ability to claim tax relief from losses at its now-defunct German and Belgian units.

The country’s highest court rejected an appeal by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs today on how that relief is calculated, handing another victory to Britain’s largest clothing retailer in its decade-long legal battle. M&S wants to use losses at the units to offset taxable profits in the U.K.

HMRC’s attempt to require M&S to prove that the European losses couldn’t be used for future tax relief meant “there would be no realistic chance of satisfying” the conditions, Supreme Court Judge David Hope said in the ruling.

Google Inc. (GOOG), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and other multinational companies have faced criticism in countries where they operate for using legal methods to avoid paying full taxes.

A spokesman for HMRC and Simon Whitehead, a lawyer at London-based tax firm Hage Aaronson who represented M&S in the case, declined to immediately comment.

The retailer is “pleased with today’s ruling,” Clare Wilkes, a spokeswoman for M&S, said in an e-mailed statement. She declined to comment further because the case is ongoing.

The case is: Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs v Marks & Spencer Plc, Supreme Court, [2013] UKSC 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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