Chris Moyles’s attempts to reduce his tax liability are all over the press right now. However, if you’re interested in the facts, the decision can be read here.
To be fair, Moyles wasn’t the only one who sought to use this scheme but he is, apparently, well known, so the press have chosen to focus on him. To be clear, I don’t have any sympathy for him. He invested in something that must have seemed to be ‘too good to be true’ and, notwithstanding his thinly veiled attempts to blame his advisers, he really should have known better.
He was the taxpayer and it was, ultimately his decision to use the scheme. However, the designers of the scheme and Moyles’s own tax adviser must accept their share of the blame.
I have long been strongly opposed to the idea of regulation of tax advisers in the UK but this case is the latest in a list which really strains my resolve on this matter. The scheme in question was, I understand, designed by NT Advisers, a firm with a history of devising such schemes. Indeed, they have lost other cases recently and HMRC has branded them a “serial avoidance promoter”.
One of the many problems with regulation is that it tars all advisers with the same brush. There are, by HMRC’s admission, only a handful of firms actively marketing ‘aggressive avoidance’ schemes. What I cannot understand, therefore, is why HMRC doesn’t do more to target those firms direct. Instead, we get nonsense like the consultation on Tackling marketed tax avoidance which targets the user but seems to ignore the promoter.
To be clear, my views on regulation remain unchanged. However, those advisers who are willing to design these schemes or to advise their clients to participate, need (IMHO) to think very hard about what they are doing and whether they are really acting in their clients’ best interests.