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High Court ruling on Westpac case

Inland Revenue has welcomed a ruling from the High Court in Auckland ordering Westpac to pay $961 million in back taxes.

In a decision released today, following a seven week hearing earlier this year, Justice Harrison has ruled that the "structured finance" transactions were "tax avoidance arrangements entered into for a purpose of avoiding tax."

"The Commissioner has correctly adjusted the deductions claimed by Westpac in order to counteract its tax advantage gained under an avoided arrangement," he said in the ruling.

Inland Revenue claimed unpaid tax and interest from Westpac for the 1999 to 2005 tax years, for transactions between 1998 and 2002.

The Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Robert Russell, said the decision supports Inland Revenue's long held view that the transactions were tax avoidance.

"This is the second significant decision in our favour involving banks and this type of transaction, and we're very pleased with the outcome."

In July, in a separate case, Justice Wild ordered the Bank of New Zealand to pay $416 million in back taxes after a 13-week hearing in the High Court in Wellington.

BNZ has said it will appeal the ruling in its case.