FORMULA ONE OWNER Bernie Ecclestone is taking legal action against the taxman and a potential £1bn bill after a dispute over a family trust was re-opened.
Three separate lawsuits were filed by Ecclestone with the High Court as he seeks to block the tax bill, which was issued following HMRC’s decision to abandon a deal agreed in 2008, the Independent reports.
That agreement was reached following a nine-year investigation into F1’s tax affairs. The 1997 transfer of shares in the motorsport company to his Croatian then-wife Slavica, who placed them in a Liechtenstein-based trust called Bambino, triggered the investigation.
Slavica and Ecclestone’s daughters Tamara and Petra were the trust’s beneficiaries. HMRC examined whether the transfer of shares to the trust had breached anti-avoidance rules and in 2008 it concluded they had not.
Yet in December 2014, HMRC told Ecclestone that it had rescinded the settlement agreement, claiming it had been “misled” and that it had relied on false representations. In all, the bill covering 13 years of income earned by the trust totalled £674m, with £349m of interest on top and the possibility of further penalty charges.
Ecclestone strongly denies any control over the trust and his lawyers claim no “rational reason” for scrapping the original 2008 agreement has been put forward by HMRC.
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