HMRC offers tax planning amnesty

HMRC offers tax planning amnesty

7 January 2013

HMRC has issued an invitation to participants in certain tax-planning schemes to settle without going to litigation. Initially the offer only covers a very limited number of schemes.

The category of schemes includes the use of General Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) by companies, sole traders or partnerships to create asset depreciation costs and reduce their taxable profits. Other schemes subject to the amnesty are those relying on film production expenditure relief, and those that create partnership losses from first year allowance reliefs, restrictive covenant payments, and certain capital allowances.

Similar arrangements may be extended in future to participants in film partnership sale-and-leaseback schemes, and interest relief schemes based on S353(1) ICTA 88, though HMRC has not yet decided. HMRC says its aim is to restrict relief so that expenditure which is not part of the real economic cost borne by the participants will be excluded when calculating losses or capital allowances. Only amounts equivalent to the actual cash contribution funded by the participant and expended in the claimed trade will be allowed when computing losses or capital allowances.

Reliefs will probably not be allowed where the scheme participants have paid fees for tax advice or litigation protection. Some specific schemes that fall into the above categories are, however, expressly excluded from the amnesty. The offer has been prompted by HMRC’s successes in some recent litigation, notably Tower MCashback, and the film partnership cases Eclipse no.35, Icebreaker no.1, Samarkand and Alchemist. HMRC plans to contact all eligible individuals by the end of January, and says it is prepared to settle with individual partners in a scheme even if the partnership as a whole declines the offer.

Those who decline to settle will see the agency ‘increase the pace of our investigations and accelerate disputes into litigation,’ it said, though no specific deadline has been set.

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