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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is under pressure to review whether its approach to tackling film tax avoidance schemes is fair and equitable.
The chairperson of the UK's Treasury Select Committee, Andrew Tyrie, has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond over concerns that the Government's effort to address tax avoidance in the UK film industry have resulted in "financial calamity" for some investors.
Tyrie noted that HM Revenue and Customs has been pursuing tax from those who invested in film projects through illegitimate tax avoidance schemes.
Following changes to UK tax rules, taxpayers have been required to pay disputed tax upfront upon receipt of an Accelerated Payment Notice, and Tyrie noted that penalties can eventually be higher than the original amount invested. He noted that some investors will have invested in such arrangements on the (mistaken) understanding that it was not aggressive tax planning and instead a legitimate avenue for tax deferral.
He wrote that, of late, "an increasing number of representations have been made to me expressing concern that the outcomes are not always fair nor what anyone could have expected. This has resulted in financial calamity for some of those involved and considerable difficulties for HMRC in bringing a large number of schemes to a close."
"As you know, there have been various press articles that have referred to Accelerated Payment Notices amounting to more than GBP2bn and to suicides within investor circles. Press articles have also noted that investors could face 'life changing bills,' which far exceed the amount of their original investment."
The letter called for HMRC to assert how it is dealing with those taxpayers engaged in other less offensive tax planning arrangements, to ensure they are not caught up in very long-running inquiries, and address the issue of "dry income" from such arrangements. Tyrie explained that the Committee is interested in particular in the circumstances of those individuals who have been denied any relief from their costs but nevertheless continue to be taxed on income from a partnership from which they never benefit.
He has asked HM Revenue and Customs to publicize its approach on these matters and to ensure its dealings with these taxpayers are proportionate and fair.
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