David Gower has launched a fierce attack on the tax office following the conclusion of the latest round in the legal battle over a film investment scheme.
The former England cricket captain and TV star was among a host of sports stars, celebrities and politicians who put thousands of pounds into a film investment scheme operated by Ingenious Media.
The Ingenious Film Partners 2 LLP scheme attracted around 1,400 stars, including Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney, alongside former footballer stars David Beckham and Gary Lineker. TV double act Ant and Dec and ex-Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman were also among the scheme's backers.
The investors each paid a minimum of £100,000 into the scheme, which offered tax breaks in return for helping fund box office hits. Life of Pi, Avatar and Girl With a Pearl Earring, were among the blockbuster films Ingenious helped bring to the big screen.
Last week the Upper Tribunal confirmed that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was right to deny the stars a tax break, after an original ruling last August that these schemes were used to avoid tax.
Gower, who was advised to go into the scheme by a financial adviser, told the Daily Mail. ‘People were accusing the innocent investors of trying to evade responsibilities. That is completely untrue.'
He added: ‘Innocent investors went in on advice and if anyone has been immoral and unfair it’s HMRC. They completely f***ed up the way they did it.’
A number of stars are said to be facing the threat of bankruptcy after being hit with steep retrospective tax bills.
Louise Brittain, a bankruptcy specialist at Wilkins Kennedy told the Daily Mail she had taken dozens of calls from worried investors.
‘A lot are quite well known and wealthy but the tax debt is so massive they wouldn’t be able to pay it,' Brittain said.
However, Gower indicated he is not among them. 'I won’t go bankrupt. A lot of people went in much more strongly than I did.’
Ingenious hits back
Meanwhile Ingenious has hit out at 'biased' media reports following last week's ruling.
Reports suggested Ingenious had failed to overturn the ruling last week, which had left investors facing a £700 million tax bill. However, the firm stressed the latest development was a ruling to clarify the original August 2016 decision, not a failure to overturn the original ruling.
'The decision of the First Tier Tax Tribunal was a clarification on how it is to be implemented rather than a decision on an appeal,' the partnership said.
It also confirmed it intends to appeal to the Upper Tribunal and is ‘confident of victory’.
Ingenious CEO Neil Forster said: ‘The Tribunal’s clarification of a technical matter has been presented in the media in a wholly-biased manner which misrepresents the facts and misleads the reader.’