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BBC's Chris Moyles loses battle to keep tax affairs from public glare

by Daniel Grote on Nov 21, 2012 at 07:58

BBC's Chris Moyles loses battle to keep tax affairs from public glare

BBC presenter Chris Moyles asked the courts to conceal his membership of an aggressive tax avoidance scheme because any revelations would infringe his human rights, The Times has reported.

Reports of Moyles’ membership of the scheme appeared earlier this month, but it has emerged that Moyles had earlier had his request for anonymity refused by a tax tribunal.

Judge Colin Bishopp said that there was an ‘obvious public interest’ in keeping tax cases public.

‘The fact that a taxpayer is rich, or that he is in the public eye, does not seem to me to dictate a different approach,’ he said. ‘On the contrary, it may be that hearing the appeal of such a person in private would give rise to the suspicion… that riches or fame can buy anonymity, and protection from the scrutiny which others cannot avoid.’

The Times said that Bishopp had kept Moyles’ identity secret to give him time to appeal, referring to him as ‘Mr A’ in his subject, but that it had established separately that the case related to Moyles.

10 comments so far. Why not have your say?

PensionMan

Nov 21, 2012 at 09:16

If he is doing something wrong publish the name when he is found guilty.

If he is not doing wrong and merely using aviodance in line with the rules (albeit very aggresively) then dont publish his name.

If you dont like it change the rules!

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Green Eyed Monster

Nov 21, 2012 at 15:09

If he was within the law what was the tax tribunal for?

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Man of Kent

Nov 21, 2012 at 15:10

@ PensionMan

You aren't found guilty of doing something wrong - you're found guilty of doing something illegal. What about the morality in between? If you take the view that only something actually illegal is wrong then we're on a slippery moral slope.

Until recently, I've held to the view that tax avoidance and tax evasion were two very separate issues. It's all very well to say, "change the rules", but it now seems that the creativity of those fashioning tax avoidance schemes based on almost completely artificial constructs constantly outstrips the ability of HMRC to deal with them. The concept of aggressive tax avoidance at least seems to allow HMRC the necessary scope to challenge these schemes without introducing new legislation to cover each new scheme. Publication of the names of those involved will be a useful deterrent.

If a scheme's only purpose is to avoid tax, how can it not be wrong?

Human rights? Oh, please...

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PensionMan

Nov 21, 2012 at 15:21

@ Man of Kent

I totally agree re a morality viewpoint.

But what he is doing is not illegal and, although I totally disagree with what he is doing, we must as a society maintain the innocent until proven guilty mantra.

What we need is for HMRC to sort out the legislation to make it clear and unambiguous. This will hopefully prevent the tax smart arses from dreaming up schemes to help the super rich avoid paying their fair share.

And it we do carry on naming and shaming it would be interesting to see how many politcians / civil servants take advantage of these schemes.

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Green Eyed Monster

Nov 21, 2012 at 15:43

Does anyone know why he was before a tax tribunal for using a legitimate tax avoudance scheme?

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Richard Hardy

Nov 21, 2012 at 17:10

Is the tax scheme illegal or not?

If not then no case to answer, he has handled his tax affairs in an efficient and legal manner.

Maybe in a similar fashion to how the pensions of High Court Judges are different to the man in the street!

Saving money in a pension or an ISA is a way of reducing taxation but on a slightly less grand scale.

On the subject of morality one can ask the question who decided it is morally right for a state to charge one person 20% tax on their income and someone who just so happens to earn more money 50% tax on a certain percentage of their income?

When it comes down to it, if HMRC wants individuals to pay the level of tax they feel is correct then HMRC need to change legislation and do it through the legal channels rather than using the press and the threat of public retribution as a stick.

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Man of Kent

Nov 21, 2012 at 18:44

@ PensionMan

I take your point about the golden thread of 'presumed innocence' and, clearly, trial by media (social or otherwise) is to be avoided, but I am driven to wonder about the process by which these schemes are promoted and the apparently unquestioning acceptance of their benefits by those with a high degree of public visibility.

This one is described elsewhere as a "marketed tax-avoidance scheme". Does this mean it had been notified to HMRC? If not, surely its promotion is illegal, and those using it at risk of prosecution? Presumably the devil is in the detail. I don't suppose there is a 'Tax Avoidance Scheme Notification' form. It would be a bit like customs staff expecting a straight answer to the question, "Are you a terrorist?" HMRC's website talks about schemes they believe may be being offered to people, so they apparently have to play a very long game of catch-up.

Clearly, you're right - the rules should be made clearer / simpler - but does that actually catch anyone? Would it stop this industry even if HMRC stated that any scheme whose sole purpose is the avoidance of tax, involving financial and corporate structures manufactured or procured for the purpose, and for which the only real risk was being found out, was likely to be treated with ultimate suspicion, closed down, the benefits confiscated and the beneficiaries prosecuted? Haven't they said so already?

In the meantime, shouldn't we have a reasonable expectation that if someone is smart enough to make a large amount of money out of a public position then they should be able to work out that paying only a few per cent tax on it might be wrong? If the public earned them the money and due process has been observed, I think the public should know what's happened. This was subject to a tax tribunal and the judge kept Chris Moyles' identity secret, pending appeal, but he wanted his anonymity preserved on human rights grounds because it would damage his (public) career, which can't be right.

And yes, I will be very interested to see which politicians, civil servants are also members of this club.

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PensionMan

Nov 22, 2012 at 09:02

Man of Kent

Of course I agree with everything you are saying but we must draw a clear distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. One is illegal and one is not.

Is an ISA, for example, bad, as it is a simple form of tax avoidance?

As you correctly stated earlier this is a morality issue rather than a legal one but for as long as there are loopholes the less moral among us will take advantage of these.

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Man of Kent

Nov 22, 2012 at 13:05

@ PensionMan - can't disagree that we should restore the distinction between evasion and avoidance but I'm still left wondering how HMRC could ever really publish clear enough guidelines. Maybe it does need to start somewhere and build, as there doesn't seem to be a clear starting point currently.

With regard to publishing details of individuals, I suppose the press are at liberty to report on immoral as well as illegal behaviour, though? MPs' expense fiddles were widely reported, even though they had been cleared by the relevant Parliament office (who never seemed to be investigated).

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Tax Breaks

Nov 23, 2012 at 08:19

@ Man of Kent

This one is described elsewhere as a "marketed tax-avoidance scheme".

Does this mean it had been notified to HMRC?

Disclosure of tax avoidance schemes (DOTAS)

At a glance

The DOTAS regime allows HMRC to keep up to date with what types of tax avoidance schemes are in circulation. This provides the opportunity to review and if necessary, amend legislation to block any scheme which the government considers aggressive and unfair.

Under DOTAS a scheme promoter is required to disclose the main elements of the scheme to HMRC.

Special rules apply where disclosure is not made by a promoter, in those cases a scheme user must make disclosure.

HMRC will then issue the scheme with a DOTAS number.

A scheme user will have to notify HMRC that it is using the scheme by inserting the number in its tax return.

HMRC will monitor the scheme’s use and if necessary legislate to terminate it.

Financial penalties are levied on those who fail to comply with the regime.

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