Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 21st November 2016
A number of very well-known figures are understood to have been among hundreds of people recently ordered by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to make large-scale repayments in relation to a tax avoidance scheme.
Football managers Glenn Hoddle, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sir Alex Ferguson, along with close to 800 other individuals, have reportedly been told they must now make sizeable repayments well in excess of their initial investments.
According to the Times newspaper, similar demands are being made of dozens of other celebrities who put money into a scheme called ‘Eclipse’, which had been designed to enable investors to reduce their tax liabilities through a process involving major international movie productions.
A total of close to £2.2 billion is reported to have been invested into the Eclipse scheme by around 780 investors, although it is unclear whether investors in the scheme were aware of how it was intended to function and how it might save them money.
Nevertheless, those investors could now be facing very serious financial difficulties and the prospect of bankruptcy in many cases with HMRC demanding payment of very considerable sums within just a 90-day timeframe.
Reports suggest that someone who invested around £200,000 into the scheme could now owe HMRC in the region of £2 million.
Nick Wood, who advised hundreds of investors in the scheme, told the Times: “I think there will be people potentially jumping off bridges.
“My expectation is, out the 780 people involved, I’d think it highly likely that up to 600-700 would go bankrupt.”
Other well-known figures believed to have invested money in the scheme include the former Newcastle United football player Nolberto Solano and Sir Peter Davis, the ex-chairman of the supermarket giant Sainsbury’s.
No suggestion has been made that the Eclipse scheme was engaged in illegal activities of any sort. Its investments apparently involved the collective acquisition of rights to major Hollywood films and their subsequent sub-leasing back to the studios involved in making them.
A judicial review of HMRC’s position in relation to Eclipse and its investors is expected to be sought by relevant stakeholders in the coming weeks.