A raft of celebrities that include David Beckham and Andrew Lloyd Webber face a potential tax bill of £1 billion in a dispute over an Ingenious film shceme, which HMRC alleges was used as a tax avoidance scheme.
The Revenue is attempting to demand the film scheme investors pay back tax relief received on their investment before a court battle gets underway to determine the legitimacy of the schemes, the Sunday Times has reported.
The celebrities each paid a minimum £100,000 to invest in the Ingenious Film Partners 2 LLP, a film scheme that qualified for tax breaks under rules that were aimed at stimulating the British film industry under the previous government. The scheme helped to fund films such as Life of Pi, Avatar and Girl With a Pearl Earring. However, HMRC now argues that these schemes were not legitimate investment opportunities but rather used to avoid tax.
Ingenious, formerly led by Patrick McKenna, has retailiated by sending a letter to its clients warning them of HMRC's 'draconian' plans to force them to pay up before their case comes to court. The approach forms part of the Revenue's attempt to clear a backlog of 65,000 individuals and businesses suspected of using tax avoidance schemes.
The move also forms part of a long-running dispute with Ingenious Media Investments. Ingenious denies the schemes were designed to avoid tax and intends to fight the case at a tax tribunal, scheduled for November.
The Sunday Times reported that under current legislation the schemes’ investors would be able to keep the tax relief until litigation or an investigation was completed.
However, the paper said that HMRC now wants the forthcoming Finance Bill to force firms and individuals under suspicion of benefiting from a tax avoidance scheme to repay the disputed money.