Episode 95

Episode 90 observed that ‘always speaking’ is a baseline assumption in our system, but that how to apply it is often problematic.  A recent UK case – News Corp UK – throws more light on this1.  The issue was whether ‘newspapers’ in older VAT provisions extended to cover digital editions – answer ‘no’.  The court confirmed that always speaking is ‘merely an aspect of purposive interpretation’2.  It involves ‘taking into account changes in our understanding of the natural world, technological changes, changes in social standards and … changes in social attitudes’3.  The aim is to apply the purpose of the original provisions to the present situation.  VAT exemptions are construed strictly and a ‘standstill provision’ restricted expansion of zero-rated categories.  Legislative purpose, therefore, narrowed any role for ‘always speaking’ and prevented digital editions being ‘newspapers’.

Gordon Brysland – Tax Counsel Network

See here for the official PDF of Episode 95 of interpretation NOW!

Thanks – Cheryl D’Amico, Matt Snibson, Philip Borrell & Patrick Boyd.


1 News Corp UK & Ireland Ltd v CRC [2023] UKSC 7,  iTip – read this case.

2 plurality (at [37]) quoting Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41 (at [38]).

3 plurality (at [35]) citing Test Claimants [2020] UKSC 47 (at [218-219]).