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Vodafone wins arbitration case against govt in $2 bn tax dispute case

The tribunal, in its ruling, said the government must cease seeking the dues from Vodafone and should also pay $5.47 million to the company as partial compensation for its legal costs

Topics
Vodafone | Finance Ministry | Telecom companies

Aditi Shah | Reuters  |  New Delhi 

vodafone
In April 2014, Vodafone initiated arbitration proceedings against India.

Group Plc has won an international arbitration case against the Indian government in a $2 billion tax dispute, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

An international arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that India’s imposition of a tax liability on Vodafone, as well as interest and penalties, were in a breach of an investment treaty agreement between India and the Netherlands, one of the sources said.

The tribunal, in its ruling, said the government must cease seeking the dues from and should also pay 4.3 million pounds ($5.47 million) to the company as partial compensation for its legal costs, the source said.

and India’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tax dispute stems from Vodafone’s acquisition of the Indian mobile assets from Hutchison Whampoa in 2007. The government said Vodafone was liable to pay taxes on the acquisition, which the company contested.

In 2012, India’s top court ruled in favour of the telecom provider but the government later that year changed the rules to enable it to tax deals that had already been concluded.

In April 2014, Vodafone initiated arbitration proceedings against India.

India is entangled in more than a dozen international arbitration cases against companies, including Cairn Energy, over retrospective tax claims and cancellation of contracts.

The exchequer could end up paying billions of dollars in damages if it loses.

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A timeline of the Vodafone tax battle

2007: Vodafone buys Hutchison’s India assets

Sep: Gets tax notice for not deducting tax at source

Oct: Challenges notice in Bombay HC

2008

Dec: Bombay HC dismisses petition, allows tax dept to proceed on showcause notice

2010

May: Tax dept passes order claiming jurisdiction to tax the transaction

June: Vodafone challenges the order through writ petition in Bombay HC (dismissed in September).

Sep: Vodafone moves SC against the HC decision

Nov: Asked to deposit Rs 2,500 cr with SC and provide a guarantee for Rs 8,500 cr

2011

Mar: Vodafone receives a notice asking why it should not be liable for penalties of up to 100%

Apr: SC stays tax dept from enforcing any penalty

2012

Jan: SC says I-T can’t levy tax on the deal

Mar: Retro amendments allow govt to tax such deals

Apr 16: Vodafone issues notice to govt, initiating arbitration for not protecting investor rights

2013

Jan 3: Vodafone received Rs 14,200-crore tax demand (principal and interest, not penalties)

May: Law Minister Kapil Sibal approves a settlement of the tax dispute through conciliation

Jun 4: Cabinet approves non-binding conciliation

Dec 31: Vodafone responds to the govt's conciliation offer

2014

Jan: Vodafone challenges the demand under the Netherlands-India Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT)

Apr 17: Vodafone serves an arbitration notice under the India-Netherlands Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA), after I-T department withdraws conciliation offer without waiting for a tribunal's decision in the transfer pricing case

2016

Feb 12: Vodafone receives a Rs 22,100-crore tax demand (including interest from the date of the first demand)

2017

Jan: Vodafone serves a second arbitration notice — this one under the India-UK BIT

Aug 22: The Delhi High Court restrains Vodafone from participating in the second arbitration

Dec 14: The Supreme Court allows Vodafone to initiate the second arbitration process

2018

May 7: The Delhi HC refuses to restrict Vodafone from pursuing simultaneous arbitrations before two different tribunals on the same dispute

2020

Sep 25: Vodafone is reported to have won the arbitration case. The international tribunal in The Hague is quote as having ruled India’s imposition of tax liability on Vodafone, as well as interest and penalties, in a breach of the India-Netherlands BIPA

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First Published: Fri, September 25 2020. 16:26 IST
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