It’s a well-established feature of previous judgements that a fine imposed to punish an organisation should not be treated as tax deductible – the tax relief secured would effectively share out the burden of the punishment with the rest of the taxpaying community.
Which is why the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) decision, allowing McLaren racing to deduct a £32m fine for being in possession of documents belonging to Ferrari, was seemingly out of step with this point of view.
HMRC appealed the FTT ruling and the Upper Tribunal reversed the decision.
In some respects, this addresses issues of common sense as well as the law. If the FTT ruling had held, would we have seen footballers claiming tax relief on fines for bad behaviour? Or tennis players for swearing?