Asda in tax wrangle over Leighton’s share options

Asda is threatening legal action against Allan Leighton in a bid to recover £600,000 it claims to have mistakenly paid in tax on its former chief executives’ share options when he quit working for the retailer.

When Leighton, currently chairman of Royal Mail and BHS, left Asda in November 2000 and cashed in share options, Asda claims that a mistake was made in its administration and it failed to deduct the tax due on those options.

Asda is now looking to recover the money paid in tax from Leighton and has issued a claim through the courts, but has yet to serve it on Leighton. In a statement, Asda said: "If Allan paid his tax, wasn’t reimbursed by the Inland Revenue and, therefore, has also fulfilled the tax obligation, then we have no argument. All he has to do is make that clear and we can jointly go back to the Inland Revenue and get a refund for the double payment. We are sure the Inland Revenue did not intend to collect the tax twice."

Leighton has been unable to respond to requests from Employee Benefits for a comment. However, reports indicate that Leighton believes he has also paid the bill.

The statement from Asda adds: "It gives us no pleasure to do this and we have exhausted every other option – the only reason we’re taking this to court is because the six year time limit to take court action and make a claim against him was drawing to an end. We simply can’t say goodbye to £600k – the thousands of colleagues working in our stores would expect us to do nothing less. We’re still hopeful that Allan will take the opportunity to put this issue to bed amicably and settle out of court."

Separately Asda has said that it won’t be following in the footsteps of its parent US company Wal-Mart which has introduced a computerised staff scheduling system that could end predictable staff shift patterns by allocating staff based on the number of customers in a store at any time.