Structure and governance
Introduction and scope
The University of Portsmouth is a Higher Education Corporation by virtue of the Education Reform Act 1988 as amended by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.
As a Higher Education Corporation the University is an exempt charity under Part 3 of the Charities
Act 2011. This means it is not registered with the Charity Commission but is regulated instead by the Office for Students which is responsible for ensuring that the University fulfils its obligations under charity law, including demonstrating how the University has delivered its charitable purposes for the public benefit.
This document, approved July 2018 by the University’s Executive Board (UEB), sets out the University’s policy and approach to conducting its tax affairs and management of tax risk. The strategy will be reviewed periodically and any amendments will be ratified as necessary by UEB.
This Tax Strategy applies to The University of Portsmouth and to its subsidiary companies or other jointly/wholly owned entities (extant and future). All references to the “University” in this strategy are to all these subsidiary companies and other entities.
References to ‘tax, ‘taxes’ or ‘taxation’ are to UK taxation and to all corresponding worldwide taxes and similar duties in respect of which the University has legal obligations.
The University’s policy approach to conducting its tax affairs is aligned with the University’s standards of corporate governance and a risk management framework which considers reputational risk, corporate and social responsibilities.
The University is committed to conducting its tax affairs consistent with the following principles:-
1. Comply fully with all relevant laws, rules, regulations, statutory reporting and disclosure requirements wherever it operates.
2. Within the parameters above (point 1), ensure that the tax strategy is at all times consistent with the University’s overall strategic plan, its approach to risk and its values
3. Apply professional diligence and care in the proactive management of all risks associated with tax matters, and ensure that the governance and assurance procedures are appropriate
4. Foster constructive, professional and transparent relationships with tax authorities, based on principles of integrity and collaboration.
5. Use all available reliefs, exemptions and incentives in order to optimise its tax position in the conduct of its activities, but will not use them for purposes which are knowingly contradictory to the intent of Parliament and the spirit of the legislation.
Governance in relation to UK Taxation
The University operates in accordance with its Instrument and Articles of Government. The University’s Board of Governors is the Governing Body of the University and has responsibility for ensuring the effective management of the Institution. The Board of Governors has overall responsibility for the financial affairs of the University but delegates much of this authority to the Finance Committee and the Audit and Quality Committee.
The Vice-Chancellor is the University’s designated accounting officer in the Office for Students Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability and is responsible for the financial administration of the University’s affairs. Day-to-day responsibility for the financial affairs of the University is delegated to the Director of Finance. This includes taxation matters.
The Director of Finance ensures that the finance team involved in day to day tax matters are appropriately qualified and committed to ongoing continuous professional development.
Appropriate training is undertaken to ensure that these staff have up to date knowledge of changes in tax legislation and best practice. This includes membership of the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG) and attendance at relevant seminars and training events. Staff also are encouraged to liaise with colleagues within the University sector, primarily through BUFDG. Appropriate professional tax advice be sought when required.
Attitude to Tax Planning and level of risk
The University’s attitude and approach towards tax planning is to seek to optimise its tax position by the use of available tax reliefs, exemptions and incentives aligned with, and in the intended spirit of, current tax legislation, thus retaining and optimising funds available to further the University’s core activities and strategic aims.
The University aims to pay the right amounts of tax legally due both in the UK and overseas, recognising that it has a fiduciary duty to act exclusively in its best interests as a charity in the management of its affairs and the application of its property to further the University’s purposes for the public benefit. This duty makes it appropriate for the University to engage in reasonable and prudent tax planning and to use available statutory tax reliefs and exemptions relating to charities where these will assist the work of the charity, encourage genuine donations and coincide with the purposes for which these reliefs and exemptions were created.
Professional diligence and care is applied in the proactive assessment of tax risks and within the overall governance framework set by the Board of Governors, with a generally cautious approach to risk. Clear and robust conclusions are required on both the level of risk and how the risk should be managed to ensure compliance with its statutory obligations and in a manner which facilitates payment of the correct amount of tax.
In circumstances where the correct amount of tax amount may not be clearly defined, or where an alternative interpretation or application of tax law might result in different tax outcomes, the risk will be assessed in a controlled manner, applying best judgement to determine the appropriate course of action. This will usually involve seeking advice from external professionals in support of our decision-making process. The University will not, under any circumstances, enter into transactions that have a main purpose of gaining a tax advantage or intentionally make interpretations of tax law that are opposed to what is generally accepted to be the original intention or spirit of the legislation.
Relationships with tax authorities
The University seeks to have a transparent and constructive relationship with tax authorities wherever it operates around the world. All dealings with tax authorities and other regulatory bodies will be conducted professionally, courteously, collaboratively and in a timely manner to ensure that the University’s aim to meet all its statutory and legislative tax requirements globally are fully met.
As part of this, and in the context of the University’s relationship with HMRC, the University’s Tax Team commits to:
a) Engage in full, open and early dialogue with HMRC to discuss tax planning, strategy, risks and significant transactions;
b) Make fair, accurate and timely disclosures as soon as reasonably practical after they are identified;
c) Aim to minimise the risk of future challenge to any tax positions taken and gain certainty in the University’s tax affairs by proactively entering into dialogue with HMRC in real time with regard to issues where the correct treatment is uncertain;
d) Seek to resolve issues with HMRC on a real time basis and before returns are filed if possible, and where disagreements arise, work with HMRC to resolve issues by agreement (where possible);
e) Respond to Tax Consultations as appropriate, either directly with HMRC or via the University
Sector representative association, BUFDG, the Charity Sector tax representative body the CTG. These latter routes will continue to be used for issues pertaining to the University and Charity Sectors.
Any questions in respect of this Tax Strategy document should be referred to the Director of Finance of Deputy Director of Finance (Financial Systems).