Azara Blog: Federation of Tour Operators sues government over Air Passenger Duty

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Date published: 2007/02/26

The BBC says:

The Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) has launched a legal challenge to Air Passenger Duty (APD), which may mean it has to be withdrawn altogether.

The tax was doubled at the beginning of February and now ranges from £10 for an economy class short-haul flight to £80 for a first class long-haul flight.

The FTO says that the way the tax was doubled breached the Human Rights Act.

It also says that the government is not allowed to charge passengers for the right to leave a UK airport.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "The government is confident that APD is entirely legal and will robustly defend any challenge in the courts."

The FTO says that the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which has been part of EU law since 2004, only allows the government to make charges for providing a service - and that has to be related to the costs incurred.

If the tour operators are successful, the government may have to withdraw the tax and could also have to pay back more than £2bn that has been collected since 2004.

FTO Director General Andrew Cooper says: "Tour operators absorbing £50m of retrospective taxation is simply not an option."

He says the doubling of APD has had a disproportionate effect on tour operators, which, "unlike airlines, are largely precluded by law from passing on surcharges to customers who have already booked".

The legal challenge will argue that depriving tour operators of income to which they are entitled breaches their human rights.

Yes, the government was stupid and abusive of its power when it arbitrarily doubled the air passenger duty, and at the same time decided that people who had already paid for their tickets should be liable for the increased tax. Yes, the government was stupid and abusive. (And why does anyone think that Gordon Brown is such a great chancellor?) But to say this is a breach of human rights is a bit ridiculous. All government taxation policy is completely arbitrary, and all changes to tax policy announced by any government are completely arbitrary. That is unfortunately the rule of the game. Of course most people in the UK would be happy for the FTO to win its case, because the government was stupid and abusive. But the government will probably win the case.

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