Reform’s legal challenge to Labour tax raid on private schools can’t work because of Brexit, says expert

Arch Brexiteer and Reform UK leader Richard Tice’s bid to block Labour plans to charge VAT on private school fees has backfired – because of Brexit.

Mr Tice has said he will get Labour’s proposal ruled illegal in the courts on the grounds of discrimination.

But a leading tax expert says Tice’s move is doomed because leaving the EU means UK Government decisions can no longer be challenged.

Tax guru Dan Neidle, who played a key role in the downfall of ex-chancellor Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs, has mocked Mr Tice over the matter on social media.

Labour wants to end the charity status of private schools, meaning that parents will have to pay 20 per cent VAT on top of annual fees which, according to financial advisers St James Place, averaged £20,480 for day pupils and £34,790 for boarders in 2022.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she was a ‘social democrat’ when asked if she was a socialist (PA)
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she was a ‘social democrat’ when asked if she was a socialist (PA)

Mr Tice told The Daily Telegraph that his party will pursue legal avenues to stop what he believes is a discriminatory policy.

He said he would use “every legal avenue” to block Labour’s plans.

Mr Tice went on: “All charities, of any form, get business rates relief. To target only independent schools on business rates relief and VAT on fees is deeply discriminatory.”

The Reform UK leader also questioned why Labour would only apply VAT to private school fees and not university tuition fees, suggesting that it was discriminatory.

Leader of Reform UK Richard Tice speaking during a campaign launch (PA)
Leader of Reform UK Richard Tice speaking during a campaign launch (PA)

He said: “I will be actively spearheading a legal campaign in conjunction with lawyers and King’s Counsels to stop the VAT on school fees and business rates relief based on this discrimination relative to universities.”

But Mr Tice’s hopes seem to have been thwarted already because of the fact that Britain has left the EU – something he campaigned for.

In a thread on Twitter/X, Dan Niedle, founder of think tank Tax Policy Associates, wrote: “Some free legal advice for Richard Tice. Here is a complete list of the ways a court can overturn tax legislation: 1. EU law challenges. That’s it.

“There’s no other way to overturn primary tax legislation. And when I last checked, EU law challenges weren’t a thing anymore.”

He went on: “A successful ECHR/Human Rights Act challenge can result in the court politely asking parliament to think again (a ‘declaration of incompatibility’). But the law remains in force.”

He pointed out that Mr Tice had also wanted the UK to leave the ECHR.

Mr Niedle added: “If Labour decide to impose a £100bn tax on everyone called Richard Tice, I’m pretty certain it would be against the ECHR. But he’d still have zero chance of obtaining an injunction to stop it.

“Back in the real world, here’s a complete list of all the UK tax rules that have been found to be contrary to the ECHR/HRA: Nothing!”

But Mr Tice dismissed the attack: “He [Niedle] is a Labour man so of course he would say that! He is wrong: the HRA overrides everything.”

There are believed to be around 615,000 children in the UK’s 1,300 independent schools, some 7 per cent of all British school-age children and 18 per cent of pupils over the age of 16.

Some estimates suggest that if schools are forced to close down or parents can no longer afford fees then it will cost the state sector £4.2bn a year to educate them dwarfing the £1.6bn Rachel Reeves hopes to get from the tax raid.