Jimmy Carr landed with £500,000 tax bill

Comedian Jimmy Carr is to pay a £500,000 tax bill to HMRC after he stopped using the controversial K2 tax avoidance scheme.

The Mirror reported that his company, FN Good Limited is now paying corporation tax, and according to its latest accounts, made 2.5m in profits to the year end 31 April 2013.

In June 2012, Carr apologised via Twitter for using the scheme and said it was an “error of judgement” on his behalf, but added...

Continued...

» Register now

The full article is available to registered AccountingWEB members only. To read the rest of this article you’ll need to login or register.

Registration is FREE and allows you to view all content, ask questions, comment and much more.

Comments

Finally Jimmy Carr    3 thanks

the_Poacher | | Permalink

makes me laugh

ShirleyM's picture

£168m?    2 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Assuming 20% tax avoided, K2 has cost the country £33m, and double that for 40%.

It may be 'legal', but hopefully, not for long!

Why haven't the government/HMRC done something about these non-repayable loans? They have been in use for many years now. Too many mates & influential people using them, at a guess.

Good scheme    4 thanks

B Roberts | | Permalink

If anything, this shows how good the schemes actually are - if he had stayed in this scheme he would not have had to pay £500k !

There is nothing wrong or illegal in what he was doing, it is just a PR restoration exercise.

Also, I find the terminology "tax avoidance scheme" on this site to be rather inappropriate - would the editor describe an ISA in such a way ?

ShirleyM's picture

What else could you call it?    5 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

It is legal. It does avoid tax, and very well too. I am sure that even the crappiest of governments never intended that people earnings millions would pay the same amount of tax as someone on minimum wages, but that is what the scheme achieves, give or take a little on taxable benefits.

I think this is where the morals (greed?) of the wealthy come into question, and the successive governments that do absolutely nothing to close the loophole.

Glennzy's picture

Why only Jimmy Carr was Named and Shamed    4 thanks

Glennzy | | Permalink

Presumably there were lots of wealthy fat cats and entertainer types that were involved in the scheme yet Jimmy Carr seems to take the full brunt of the media attention. Was his only mistake not supporting the right political party? I seem to recall that Gary Barlow was also involved but was awarded an MBE and sang at the Queens Birthday party in the same year as all the "scandal" hit the press.

ShirleyM's picture

@Glennzy    4 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Good question! Even though the high rate of tax has been cut, it doesn't seem to encourage them to pay any at all.

He supports the Conservatives, doesn't he, and donates money to the party? It's called 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' in my book, or maybe 'the old boys club'. Still, the government can cut benefits to the poor to make up for the tax lost from millionaires, can't they? Anyone else in need can use the foodbanks set up by the charitable people who care (and it doesn't cost the government a single penny!).

Any more suggestions, or explanations, from anyone?

All in a name ?    2 thanks

B Roberts | | Permalink

ShirleyM wrote:

It is legal. It does avoid tax, and very well too. I am sure that even the crappiest of governments never intended that people earnings millions would pay the same amount of tax as someone on minimum wages, but that is what the scheme achieves, give or take a little on taxable benefits.

I think this is where the morals (greed?) of the wealthy come into question, and the successive governments that do absolutely nothing to close the loophole.

By using the phrase "tax avoidance scheme" associates negative connotations that are not required on a website that is aimed at Accountants.

I have never seen ISA's, Salary Sacrifice, Childcare Vouchers, Pension Contributions etc. referred to in this way, so why attach this negative label on something that is legal ?

In the same way that I am sure you advise your clients if and when to incorporate and structure their salary and dividend payments in order to minimise their tax liability within the law, I am sure that you would not appreciate being labelled as promoting tax avoidance schemes ?

Ps - I also agree with the comment re: Gary Barlow. Surely you would either agree or disagree with the concept, and this should not be person specific.

ShirleyM's picture

Avoidance    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

It is as described ... a tax avoidance scheme!

ISA's, etc. are not a scheme,. You do not pay a promoter to use ISA's, or any other standard avoidance measures, which by the way, have limitations on the tax that can be avoided. ISA's have limits to the amounts that can be invested. Tax avoidance schemes can avoid an unlimited amount of tax, restricted only by the amount of money put through them.

johnjenkins's picture

I have to agree with    1 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

B Roberts concerning "if it's legal" then it's legal.

What does surprise me is how a non-repayable loan set up gets past the "anything artificial" will be not be allowed as a "tax avoidance" scheme.

So, the bigger question. When did "tax avoidance" become "tax avoidance" and not just "putting your affairs in such a way as to pay minimal tax in a legal manner"? Could it be when Gordon Brown decided to destroy the one man band self-employed.

Good to see Jimmy's not "counting down" his tax bill. (don't groan)

ShirleyM's picture

@john

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Who has said it isn't legal?

Same Tax as Minimum Wage ?????    1 thanks

Wayne Pulman | | Permalink

It seems that the calculation of how much tax is paid  and the media and political frenzy surrounding it is based on direct taxes only.

I suspect that Mr Carr drives a big car (as does his wife) and lives in big house. Therefore he pays VAT on the purchase of the car, VAT and duty on his fuel bills, higher rates of road tax, large sums of Stamp Duty, much higher council tax bills, VAT on the purchase of other itmes bought from the taxes saved, employers NI on his staff salaries, etc etc etc etc.

So does Mr Carr really pay the same amount of tax?

Hard working and entreprenurial UK citizens pay a huge amount of "tax". They have no option but to pay indirect taxes. If they dont then the "law" will ensure that they do. Therefore if they wish to use the same "law" to mitigate thier direct taxes then one can hardly blame them.

And please, lets not talk about morality. That would open the debate on paying cash to builders, plumbers, electricians etc which I suspect (but have no proof of course) ShirleyM may have done in the past.

I can only fault Mr Carr for not being particularly funny!

 

 

 

 

ShirleyM's picture

@John    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I looked into these schemes when they first appeared, many years ago. My memory may be a bit rusty but this is the basics, and I apologise for any errors I may make in my recall of the schemes.

An umbrella type company is set up, the 'taxpayer' becomes employed by the company who pays the minimum wages through payroll incurring a small amount of tax/NI (as required by law), and the remainder of the income (less promoters fees) gets put into an offshore trust. The trust 'loans' money to the taxpayer and the loan is not taxable. Benefits are payable on the loan, which is written off (or a new trust formed) every couple of years. The loan is non-repayable because the trustees are obliged to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and asking for the loan to be repaid would not be acting in the best interests of the beneficiary. Any 'loan' not written off at death can be used to get relief against Inheritance tax.

I hope I have remembered it correctly. The end result is a tax take for the country equivalent to minimum wages, but some substantial promoters fees will be incurred by the 'taxpayer'.

johnjenkins's picture

@Shirley    2 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

As I see it legal but artificial. HMRC said some years ago that anything artificial would not be allowed. If HMRC are allowing this sort of scheme then they are also in the wrong for naming people that are using them, although having the desired affect.

@Jimmy Carr. If you haven't done anything illegal why do you feel the need to conduct your affairs more responsibly? If HMRC hadn't leaked your name i'm sure you wouldn't have come out of it.

So why haven't HMRC published a list of all those people they deem to be in unacceptable avoidance schemes. They want to publish names of "naughty" agents.

stepurhan's picture

Why Jimmy Carr    3 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

Glennzy wrote:
Presumably there were lots of wealthy fat cats and entertainer types that were involved in the scheme yet Jimmy Carr seems to take the full brunt of the media attention.
Whether his support of a particular political party was a factor I couldn't say. However, he did do a sketch on Channel 4 lampooning the banks for engaging in tax avoidance schemes. A classic case of hoist by his own petard if ever I saw one.

You're all missing the point    1 thanks

chicken farmer | | Permalink

The scheme may have been 'legal' but tit didin't work!. Perhaps everyone should study the provisions relating to the tansfer of assets abroad (see s.714 ITA 2007 - power to enjoy the income of a non-resident person.),

The point ?

B Roberts | | Permalink

chicken farmer wrote:

The scheme may have been 'legal' but tit didin't work!. Perhaps everyone should study the provisions relating to the tansfer of assets abroad (see s.714 ITA 2007 - power to enjoy the income of a non-resident person.),

Is that correct ? - I understood that the scheme did / does work and that Mr Carr decided to come out of that particular scheme into another that resulted in a higher tax liability.

That was his own personal choice (for PR reasons ?), and he could have stayed in the scheme and saved some money.

By the way, I do not agree with these schemes however I cannot exactly blame the likes of Jimmy Carr for using them - the people to blame are the regulators who can actually do something about it.

ShirleyM's picture

I partly agree    2 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

B Roberts wrote:

Is that correct ? - I understood that the scheme did / does work and that Mr Carr decided to come out of that particular scheme into another that resulted in a higher tax liability. That was his own personal choice (for PR reasons ?), and he could have stayed in the scheme and saved some money. By the way, I do not agree with these schemes however I cannot exactly blame the likes of Jimmy Carr for using them - the people to blame are the regulators who can actually do something about it.

The scheme may be legal, but only because it is hasn't been proved to be illegal. I keep asking again and again why the loophole hasn't been closed, but I am also fairly certain that if HMRC challenged the K2 scheme it would stand a good chance of winning as the scheme is so artificial, and I cannot see a legitimate business reason for it's use. Why are they not challenging it?

When the UK's borrowings are spiralling out of control, and we may already be beyond any hope of recovery, why are the government not doing all in their power to get tax from those who can most easily afford it?

Scheme doesnt work

laurence parry | | Permalink

The scheme doesnt work.  See the recent case of Philip Boyle (reported elsewhere on Accounting web). http://www.financeandtaxtribunals.gov.uk/judgmentfiles/j7506/TC03103.pdf

Whilst a provider may say that there are significant differences, the key facts of employment with offshore employer and loan back to UK resident employee are very very similar.   As well as finding that in reality loans were remuneration, the Tribunal also found that there was a transfer of assets abroad. 

johnjenkins's picture

The point is    4 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

that a few years ago HMRC stated quite positively that any scheme with even a hint of artificial at any juncture would be deemed tax evasion. Yet why are they dragging their heels?

Jimmy Carr/K2 debate

Andy Davis | | Permalink

I have read the huge volume of response to this article with great interest. However, all of the comment appears to be based on heresay and conjecture. No-one who has commented seems to have a clear understanding of how the structure works, and in my opinion individuals should not be making comment unless the necessary information to form a reasonable opinion is available.

The comments in the main seem to be motivated by a moral argument, which should not come into play for individuals arranging their tax affairs within the law, irrelevant of how unfair it may seem.

A much more important argument as tax advisers is, if the K2 structure works, and results in a significant tax benefit for clients, are advisers being negligent in not advising clients of its existance? It is the client's moral compass that is important in the decision to join any structure, and not the'morals' of adviser acting for that individual.

Apply that logic to the recent Harben Barker case and then look at your PI cover!

With regard to the Boyle case, my understanding of that decision is that it is very case specific, and is unlikely to be useful as an argument against other schemes, other than as a sabre rattling exercise by HMRC.

Reading the decision, I believe the scheme, as constructed would have been sucessful, and only failed due to poor implimentation. I therefore doubt its usefullness in any investigation of the K2 structure.

ShirleyM's picture

Do you understand K2?

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Andy Davis wrote:

I have read the huge volume of response to this article with great interest. However, all of the comment appears to be based on heresay and conjecture. No-one who has commented seems to have a clear understanding of how the structure works, and in my opinion individuals should not be making comment unless the necessary information to form a reasonable opinion is available.

If so, why not explain it to us? If not, then how do you know we don't understand it?

johnjenkins's picture

@Andy Davies    2 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

I don't think, as advisers, it is our job to bring to our clients attention legal schemes that include an artificial element. That is not being moral, that is being what an Accountant and tax adviser is all about.

K2 Debate    5 thanks

jeremy28 | | Permalink

So - Jimmy could legally avoid £500k tax bill, with the Government taking no action.

And at the same time, they are talking of removing Child Benefit from families with more than 2 children, saving £624 per child per annum (equivalent of 3/4 weeks of groceries from a 3 person family?).

ie - they rather put 801 families (3500k/£624) into further economic misery  than to go after each Jimmy Carr and the type.

Why? Because its an easy scapegoat.

Bear in mind, that to earn the £624 back can in reality mean earning an excess £2,400 after deducting tax (lower band only @20%, NIC at 13%, and tax credit deductions @41% for extra earnings) - and thats for families not on other benefits such as housing benefits.

Whilst not a left leaning person normally, Ed Millibands talk of giving up hope is striking a chord...

ShirleyM's picture

@Andy Davis & Wayne    2 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

K2 is used by more than 1,000 high earners and was described by Prime Minister David Cameron as "very dodgy." Here is the basic premise of how it operates:

  • UK earners 'quit' their job
  • They then sign new employment contracts with offshore shell companies
  • The offshore companies 'rehire' their new employee to the UK but take their earnings
  • The offshore company pays the employee a much lower salary each month, but 'loans' them several thousand pounds
  • These loans can be written down as tax liabilities, thus substantially reducing tax payable to the Government

The link is:

http://www.itv.com/news/update/2012-06-20/how-the-k2-tax-avoidance-scheme-works/

I wasn't far wrong. K2 relies on remuneration disguised as 'loans'

I have no moral argument one

laurence parry | | Permalink

I have no moral argument one way or the other with tax schemes.  They work, or they don't.  However, I have always thought that these schemes failed under the transfer of assets regime, irrespective of a purposive interpretation of employment taxes.  For those who do know the K2 scheme in detail, perhaps they could explain why these dont apply.

Does K2 really work?    3 thanks

Poindexter316 | | Permalink

The promoters may claim that K2 works, the media frenzy may decry that such arrangements work and that HMRC is impotent in its response but this is not quite a correct analysis.

Most tax avoidance scheme arrangements are carefully constructed to take account of a particular interpretation of the law. This allows the arrangements to be regarded as legal. This is not the same as an acceptance that the scheme works. It is simply recognition that the arrangements entered into (usually blessed with an opinion from Counsel) can be achieved within the law, if all the facts and beneficial interpretations of each component element of the law concerned are actually interpreted by the courts in the manner required

My understanding is that K2 (and icebreaker - a similar form of scheme operated I think in the year before K2) is not accepted as effective by HMRC. The process of enquiry and challenge is therefore far from concluded. Until this process is complete there can be no certainty that this arrangement works.

As a general guide it takes about 5 years or so from the tax return filing date to get to a first Tribunal hearing in a contentious case and about the same period again to transit through the UK court system, potentially more if referral to ECJ is also in point.

I am not sure anybody in K2 should be counting their tax saving just yet! 

Political Posturing!    1 thanks

Michael C Feltham | | Permalink

Come on!

Carr stupidly allowed a whiner, snitching to the media, to rock his PR boat.

And caved.

The regime of Tax Avoidance is pretty damned tight: we must advise clients to pre-clear any scheme which has not been "recognised" by HMRC.

Morals and honest good intent have precisely nought to do with this issue.

The issue is only and purely about what is legal by way of being enshrined in tax legislation and codes.

Government of course, is constantly on tenterhooks, from their own credibility perspective, as they seek to squeeze and squeeze the poor, the slightly less than poor and the "nouveau poor", rather than the bloated transnational trading multinationals, the uber rich and the bloated plutocrats; in order government can waste vast sums annually and generally screw up the nation state! This is moral?

Case law on tax is full of advice, by senior judges: read.

No one must allow any revenue gathering body to extract more than can be legally opposed.

If taxes were not so stupidly excessive and if government were not so profligate, then exploiting dual taxation treaties and the rest would lack traction.

And the Big Five would not be quite as big............

 

 

 

A bit below the belt

vstrad | | Permalink

Shirley, your dig at Sir Gary of Barlow is a bit below the belt. It was adverse media comment that made Carr change his approach. You'll have to ask the media why they didn't follow up on Barlow. I don't think the Conservatives have any influence at all on the Daily Mirror, so you can't really blame friends in high places.

K2    1 thanks

Andy Davis | | Permalink

My understanding or not of the K2 structure is not of relevance here.

I'm merely noting that there is huge debate, and no-one involved in it actually fully understands the structure to make informed comment as to whether it will eventually prove to be sucessful or not.

A simple 3 line explanation of how the structure alledgedly works is not sufficient for that purpose.

K2/David Cameron    1 thanks

Andy Davis | | Permalink

[quote=ShirleyM]

K2 is used by more than 1,000 high earners and was described by Prime Minister David Cameron as "very dodgy." Here is the basic premise of how it operates:

I also recall he referred to the structure at one point as a 'perfectly legal tax avoidance'. He did use it in a different context. I think he said 'It is unacceptable that individuals can use perfectly legal tax avoidance structures such as K2', but even so...........................................

Given the history behind his family's wealth I was surprised he could comment at all without his tongue firmly in his cheek

ShirleyM's picture

Maybe it was ....    3 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

vstrad wrote:

Shirley, your dig at Sir Gary of Barlow is a bit below the belt. It was adverse media comment that made Carr change his approach. You'll have to ask the media why they didn't follow up on Barlow. I don't think the Conservatives have any influence at all on the Daily Mirror, so you can't really blame friends in high places.

I am scraping around for a logical reason as to why the government are not doing something about a scheme described by Cameron as 'very dodgy'. If the government can't, or won't, do anything then who can?

It seems more and more of these schemes are springing up, and more and more people are paying little, or no, tax. Do we ignore it until everyone joins a similar scheme, leaving only the poor to pay tax because they can't avoid it, and we end up like Greece? 

I love my country, and I don't mind paying the cost of living here. I cannot understand people who want to live & earn here, but don't want to contribute to the upkeep, especially when those people are the ones who can best afford it.

johnjenkins's picture

Ok Andy    2 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

Let me (in my humble capacity as an Accountant of 49 years) bring you up to speed.

Any tax avoidance scheme that includes something that is artificial (namely non-repayable loans - aren't they called gifts) will not stand a challenge from HMRC, and any Accountant or tax adviser that peddles these schemes should be bought to account. Where are their bodies?????

Maybe it was...

Andy Davis | | Permalink

Maybe they don't like paying for all the benefit cheats who are nothing but a drain on the economy. The won't work benefit culture in this country needs huge reform to encorage people back to work, and not financially penilise them for doing so.

At least the wealthy who undertake avoidance structure are (in the main) business owners who create jobs and indirect tax revenue, even if they are not perceived as paying their fair share.

The country losses a lot more to benefit fraud and deficiencies in the benefit system than it ever does to the tax avoidance industry

johnjenkins's picture

@Andy    1 thanks

johnjenkins | | Permalink

You are spot on but two wrongs or even 5 wrongs don't make a right. Anything artificial is not on. Now if you are saying that some people have to use "dodgy" methods to make those in power do something about the unfairness of our tax and benefit systems then that is another matter

Oh John

Andy Davis | | Permalink

Have you looked at the tax cases involving 'loans'?

The Revenue even lost the Rangers case. Putting aside that the decision is likely to be overturned on the next appeal (as it is clearly wrong), it will only be overturned due to inadequate implimentation, not because the structure does not in theory work.

Historic case law quite clearly supports that a loan structure works if properly implimented, whether you, me or HMRC like it, and the only way to rectify the position is to make a proper measured change to the law.

Disguised remuneration legislation clearly does not work, and the GAAR is likely to be equally ineffective.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that what goes on with these structures is right or wrong, just that in all likelyhood they do still work.

Back to the January tax returns for today. No time for further comment.

johnjenkins's picture

@Andy

johnjenkins | | Permalink

Yes of course disguised remuneration legislation (IR35) doesn't work. That's because in law it is not up to HMRC to decide how to treat a tax payers income and that's how it should be. Please tell me how a scheme that contains an artificial element can work?

K2 versus Boyle

emanresu | | Permalink

laurence parry wrote:

The scheme doesnt work.  See the recent case of Philip Boyle (reported elsewhere on Accounting web). http://www.financeandtaxtribunals.gov.uk/judgmentfiles/j7506/TC03103.pdf

I'm not sure that the two cases are comparable.  I believe that the essence of HMRC's case against Boyle was that clients signed up to an employer loan in a volatile currency and to a later redemption in that volatile currency.  The key point was that the clients dealt only in sterling, and the notes signed defined the conversion rates to be used.  It was the difference in these pre-defined conversion rates that was of benefit to the client.

Perhaps someone can explain how the benefit of the loan was realised in the K2 scheme?

Ermintrude's picture

Substance Over Form

Ermintrude | | Permalink

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_substance

Substance over form is an accounting principle used "to ensure that financial statements give a complete, relevant, and accurate picture of transactions and events". If an entity practices the 'substance over form' concept, then the financial statements will show the overall financial reality of the entity (economic substance), rather than the legal form of transactions (form).[1] In accounting for business transactions and other events, the measurement and reporting is for the economic impact of an event, instead of its legal form. Substance over form is critical for reliable financial reporting. It is particularly relevant in cases of revenue recognition, sale and purchase agreements, etc.

stepurhan's picture

Fallacious argument    4 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

Andy Davis wrote:
Maybe they don't like paying for all the benefit cheats who are nothing but a drain on the economy. The won't work benefit culture in this country needs huge reform to encorage people back to work, and not financially penilise them for doing so.

At least the wealthy who undertake avoidance structure are (in the main) business owners who create jobs and indirect tax revenue, even if they are not perceived as paying their fair share.

The country losses a lot more to benefit fraud and deficiencies in the benefit system than it ever does to the tax avoidance industry

Wondered when this argument would come up. Let's leave aside for the moment the "my disapproval of use of taxes justifies me doing whatever I want to get out of paying them" mentality of this statement. Here's some statistics on "benefit fraud". Feel free to come up with some actual statistics of your own to back up your sweeping assertions.

Polls show that people on average estimate that 27 per cent of social security payments are lost to fraud, when it is just 0.7 per cent; that 41 per cent goes to unemployed people, when it is just three per cent; and that the value of benefits are far higher than they are. Neither is the public aware that most social security spending is, rightly, spent on pensioners who have paid in all their lives; or that the Government’s freeze on benefits mostly hits working people. Large families are passed off as typical, even though just 190 out of the 1.35 million claiming an out-of-work benefits have 10 kids or more.

ShirleyM's picture

A little bit off topic ...    4 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

.. but I despair of peoples attitudes.

If everyone acted honestly, fairly, and responsibly, we would be all be better off.

I dread to think of the money we have to waste in bringing benefit cheats, fraudsters, criminals and tax dodgers to task.

All of these scream of greed, selfishness, lack of compassion, and a 'take, take, take' attitude. Who do they think pays for all this? The taxpayer! Well, I should say it's borne by those who do pay tax.

The news today tells of all the elderly care homes in Doncaster are to be closed, due to lack of funding. It would be kinder to hand out the suicide pills than force people into further poverty or neglect.

I suspect not.    3 thanks

Andreas.MacFarlane | | Permalink

I suspect not.

While you are 'avoiding' tax when you put money into an ISA, you're not 'scheming' to do so. ISAs are sanctioned in law by the government to encourage saving. Just as Salary Sacrifice for pension contributions and Gift Aid is also 'avoiding tax', but deliberately so to encourange pension saving and charitbale giving. These aren't schemes where people go to great lengths to find every possible loophole that has been inadvertently left by lawmakers who wrote the rules many decades ago.

Yes, these schemes are 'legal' as they fit into what the law says you can and cannot do, but the law is properly out of date, and was made when this wasn't such a globalised world.

 

So, it's far better not to refer to Salary Sacrifice, Gift Aid, ISAs, etc as tax avoidance schemes, but tax insentives. So, K2 definitly is a tax avoidance scheme, because it's not something the goverment are promoting to encourage people to save, but something that people have invented to get round the tax laws without breaking them.

Or should insisting on your personal allowance also be called a tax avoidance scheme?