9am Lowdown: PwC in La La land after Oscar fiasco

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Despite Moonlight taking the best picture gong at last night’s Academy awards all talk this morning was about two accountants.

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PwC pushed the wrong envelope

Two PwC accountants are at the centre of the biggest blunders in Oscar history after La La Land was mistakenly awarded the best picture. 

At last night’s event, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read out what they thought was the winner of Best Picture award, La La Land. The producers of La La Land were in the middle of their acceptance speech when the envelope error was revealed.

PwC tax partners Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan had handed the wrong envelope to Beatty and Dunaway. Moonlight was, in fact, the winner.

Cullinan and Ruiz tempted fate last week in an interview with the Huffington Post. Cullinan assured that mistakes were “so unlikely”. She added: “Whether that entails stopping the show, us walking onstage, us signaling to the stage manager — that’s really a game-time decision, if something like that were to happen.”

PwC has apologised in a statement for the error. "The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred."   

The PwC pair oversees the counting of the ballots, before memorising the winners of all 24 categories and manually placing the winners’ names into the envelope.

PwC has a relationship with the Academy going back years. It has counted the ballots for the last 83 Academy awards.

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Tyrie criticises film scheme investigations

Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury select committee, has criticised HMRC over its response to the exploitation of tax breaks for the film industry.

Tyrie said in a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond that HMRC’s investigations into film schemes were “not always fair” and has resulted in “financial calamity for those involved”.

"Many have said that, when these schemes were being sold, they were not considered to be aggressive avoidance but just a deferral of tax, and they were often marketed as routine tax management," Mr Tyrie told the Chancellor.  

Speaking to the BBC, an HMRC spokesperson rejected Tyrie’s concerns. "We have worked hard to tackle abuse in the system on behalf of the vast majority of investors who play by the rules, ensuring they are enforced fairly, and with sensitivity."

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Ladbrokes loses tax avoidance appeal

Ladbrokes lost a lengthy legal dispute with HMRC after the high street bookie used a Deloitte promoted tax avoidance scheme.

Ladbrokes exploited a tax planning scheme which involved the taxation of loans. The loophole was closed in 2009. The scheme involved two companies in the Ladbrokes group. They entered the arrangement to artificially manufactured fall in the value of the shares in one of the companies generated a loss for the other company for tax purposes.

HMRC’s director general for customer compliance, Jennie Granger, said: “Ladbrokes would have been better off just paying the tax but instead they pursued this lengthy legal dispute with HMRC. Avoidance schemes like this just don’t work and HMRC will always take firm action against them. The bookie gambled and lost when the odds of success could not have been lower.”

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's Practice Editor. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.


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27th Feb 2017 09:52

I note that the judge agreed 100% with my reason here why there was zero chance of success in any Ladbrokes appeal:


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By Mike18
28th Feb 2017 18:09

Jennie Granger seems to have a sense of humour with the gambling metaphor. Nevertheless, a comedy career may not beckon as she has made HMRC sound like the Sopranos and not a tax authority.

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