'Firm action' on tax avoidance
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HM Revenue and Customs has said it is taking "firm action to protect the Exchequer from unacceptable tax loss".
The promise came after reports that comedian Jimmy Carr and members of the band Take That were among wealthy individuals using legal but aggressive tax avoidance schemes.
One scheme, K2, is said to be shielding £168 million a year from the taxman.
According to the Times, Carr told an audience on Tuesday: "I pay what I have to and not a penny more."
More than 1,000 people, including Carr, are thought to be using the Jersey-based K2 scheme.
Under it, an individual resigns from their company and any salary they subsequently receive is paid to an offshore trust.
The individual then receives a small amount of that as salary and the rest as a loan, which because it can technically be recalled, does not attract tax.'Preparing to litigate'
The Times is also reporting that Take That members Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen have used another partnership run by Icebreaker Management Services.
End Quote Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury
No matter how rich or famous you are, we are coming to get you”
It provides tax relief in return for investments in the music industry.
HMRC said it had already successfully challenged one avoidance scheme run by Icebreaker, which it refers to as Icebreaker 1.
"This type of scheme will fail where there is circular borrowing which serves no economic purpose or which cannot, in fact, be used in a trade," a spokesman said.
"We are now preparing to litigate Icebreaker 2 but for legal reasons cannot say more at this time.
"We examine the implementation of avoidance schemes in detail and will not let any aspect of these cases go unchallenged."
The spokesman added: "We have taken firm action to protect the Exchequer from unacceptable tax loss.
"We do not accept that the Icebreaker tax avoidance schemes have the tax effects their promoters claim."
In his Budget speech in March, Chancellor George Osborne described illegal tax evasion and legal, but aggressive tax avoidance as "morally repugnant".
According to the Times, the K2 scheme allows someone on an income of £280,000 to reduce their tax bill from £127,000 to just £3,500.'Outrageous'
Carr was reportedly confronted over his financial arrangements during a show in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, by an audience member who shouted: "You don't pay tax."
End Quote Spokesman Icebreaker Management Services
Abuse of the tax system for personal gain is, of course, never acceptable”
His lawyers have insisted he has done nothing wrong, but the Treasury has said K2 is already being investigated.
The Times also quoted lawyers for Barlow, Owen, Donald and their manager Jonathan Wild who said all four paid significant tax and did not believe the Icebreaker programme was a tax avoidance scheme.
A spokesman for Icebreaker Management Services Ltd said the firm "recognises the need for the proper administration and collection of taxes, and that it is essential that anyone who seeks to make use of tax relief does so properly and within the law".
"Abuse of the tax system for personal gain is, of course, never acceptable," he added.
Writing in the Sun on Wednesday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said most people found it "outrageous" that the wealthiest people were using "ever more obscure and underhand" methods to avoid tax.
"Frankly, I think people who dodge the tax system are the moral equivalent of benefit cheats," he said.
And he added: "No matter how rich or famous you are, we are coming to get you."