Oil trader Vitol in talks over tax-avoidance bill

Oil trader Vitol is in talks with HM Revenue & Customs to settle a claim for millions of pounds in taxes its senior staff avoided through an offshore pay scheme.

The Geneva-based company, which has offices in London, is thought to have operated an ‘employee benefit trust’ (EBT) for more than a decade.

Such schemes, which were used by more than 2,000 companies, allowed employees to avoid paying income tax and companies to avoid national insurance contributions.

HMRC is chasing taxes which were avoided through the schemes before they were categorically outlawed in 2011, and has said it believes a “large number of EBT schemes didn’t work under the previous legislation”.

Vitol is understood to have closed its scheme in 2011 when the law changed.

Ian Taylor, chief executive of Vitol, told The Sunday Times : “We will have to pay something. We will work hard to do what is best for our employees, but we must abide by the legislation - and we will.”

Other companies affected include bank JP Morgan, which is said to be close to a £500m settlement over its scheme .

Mr Taylor told the newspaper he believed that settlement may “become a template” for others.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “For legal reasons, we cannot discuss our management of the tax affairs of named businesses.”

A spokesman for Vitol declined to comment.