Top tax barrister declared bankrupt

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Andrew Thornhill QC, the tax barrister defending Rangers’ employee benefit trust (EBT) scheme, has been declared bankrupt following a petition by HMRC.

The bankruptcy order against Thornhill was made on 8 March in the High Court of Justice, just days before the Rangers Football Club tax case was called at the Supreme Court in London.

Thornhill first represented Rangers in their ‘big tax case’ back in 2012. After an initial decision went in favour of the Glasgow club, it was overturned at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in late 2015 in favour of HMRC.

Around the same time, in October 2015, Thornhill was also charged by the Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service over alleged misconduct concerning his involvement with registered charity Raleigh Ltd.

He was accused of engaging in “conduct that is likely to bring the profession into disrepute, compromising professional independence and/or accepting monies that led to a compromise of professional independence; compromising professional standards and accepting instructions when professionally embarrassed”.

The charity had lent £500,000 to a subsidiary company, which in turn gave the money to Thornhill to invest. The QC invested in a waste management company but the charity received no money back.

After the Charity Commission ordered Thornhill to pay back the money his first cheque for £75,000 bounced. The debt has since been repaid.

‘Big tax case’

After the Supreme Court hearing earlier this month five judges are now considering the final Rangers verdict, although a ruling may not be revealed for several months. If the decision is upheld, the football club could owe up to £95m.

The long-running tax saga is being heard after Rangers oldco administrators BDO appealed against a ruling that £47.65m in loans made through EBTs to players and staff were really disguised salary payments.

In court Thornhill, representing BDO, said the EBT issue was “what might be called a reduction of earnings,” as reported the Daily Record.

“We submit you cannot reduce that to which you have no right,” he added.

About Robert Lovell

Business and finance journalist

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