Avoidance scheme sheltered £1.2bn from Revenue

AN INVESTIGATION has exposed members of a tax avoidance scheme which ring-fenced £1.2bn from the taxman for four years.

The Liberty scheme ran between 2004 and 2008, closing down when new legislation was introduced by the government.

About 2,000 people invested in the scheme which created artificial losses – achieved by buying and selling dividends – which members could offset against their own tax bills. A Liberty member paying in £70,000 could expect a tax-free return of £1m per year.

Among them were BBC television presenter Anne Robinson – best known for hosting quiz show The Weakest Link – as well as Take That members Gary Barlow (pictured), Mark Owen and Howard Donald, according to The Times.

The Times understands Robinson paid £280,000 into the Jersey-based arrangement, in order to save tax on about £4m. Barlow is understood to have attempted to shelter £3m through paying in £210,000 to Mercury Tax Strategies, which ran the scheme.

Fellow members Owen and Donald attempted to save £1.4m and £2.1m, respectively, while remaining band-mates Robbie Williams and Jason Orange were not involved in the scheme, according to the paper’s investigation.

HMRC first became aware of Liberty in 2006, but it has yet to reach a tribunal, with a first-tier hearing expected to take place next spring. It is estimated £300m a year was sheltered through the scheme.

It is unclear what money the taxman will glean from any win, and none of the investors are expected to be named in the tribunals.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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