HMRC wins £44m film scheme battle

HMRC wins £44m film scheme battle

HM Revenue & Customs has won a court battle against a film investment scheme, winning £44m for the taxpayer.

The scheme was promoted by Goldcrest Pictures Ltd, which was behind box office hits such as Twilight, Gandhi and Chariots of Fire and sold film rights to 21 investors.

HMRC won a case in the Court of Appeal against one of the users of the scheme, Patrick Degorce, a hedge fund manager, who was introduced to the scheme by HSBC Private Bank, which received a £438,000 finders fee.

Mr Degorce paid £22m for the rights of two Paramount Pictures films, Tropic Thunder and The Love Guru, but he only paid £4.8m of his own money, with the rest coming from a loan through Paramount Pictures.

He then sold the rights back to Goldcrest Pictures on the same day for a fraction of the price and by claiming the difference as a trading loss, he was able to offset the £19m loss against his hedge fund income in an attempt to pay zero tax in his 2006 to 2007 tax return.

Penny Ciniewicz, director general of HMRC’s customer compliance group, said: "The majority of people play by the rules and pay their fair share of tax.

"We will not allow a small minority of tax avoiders to get away with not paying their fair share, which deprives vital public services of the funding they need.

"The public can be assured that we will continue to take on and defeat tax avoidance wherever we find it."

HMRC argued the scheme did not amount to trading, and protected £7.5m of taxpayer money in this case, and £36.1m in related cases.