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VW’s ‘Defeat Devices’ and Liability for Claims for Lost Emissions Tax Revenue

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Volkswagen Group’s utilisation of a ‘defeat device’ to produce inaccurate results for vehicle emissions tests in multiple consumer states, leads it to face potentially crippling fines, possible criminal liability, civil suits, and detriment to its own company caused by the loss of trust. However, this article considers a further issue, namely implications of the violations on taxation legislation and pursuant claims for losses as a result of lost tax revenue or recalculated taxes.With vehicles falling outside of the tax band they were purchased within, there is confusion around the world about how this will affect the tax status of the vehicles and those that own them. Vehicles could be re-banded or reassessed for a variety of different tax purposes, increasing the tax liability of the vehicle historically and prospectively to reflect the actual emissions or fuel consumption based on how the charge is designed.Through a comparative study, this article considers varying tax issues in several different countries across the globe for which the manufacturer may be liable for the life of the vehicle. This will seek to establish the scale of the potential liability for Volkswagen (VW) Group that has not yet been explored. Finally it examines how international cooperation could produce more satisfactory settlements for nations and customers.

Affiliations: 1: Director, Centre for Law & Development, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar ; 2: Associate, Ropes & Gray LLP, London, UK,


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