Goldcrest, the film production company behind box office hits such as Twilight, Gandhi and Chariots of Fire, sold film rights to 21 wealthy investors.
HMRC says the purpose of the scheme was to create ‘artificial losses’ from the sale of film rights so scheme users could considerably cut their tax bills. Some £22m was paid for the film rights which included £1.6m for advisory services.
The win came after the scheme, used by Patrick Degorce, a wealthy hedge fund manager, was defeated at the Court of Appeal. Mr Degorce was introduced to the Goldcrest scheme by HSBC Private Bank, who were paid a finders-fee of £438,000.
Penny Ciniewicz, director general of HMRC’s customer compliance group, said: “The majority of people play by the rules and pay their fair share of tax. We will not allow a small minority of tax avoiders to get away with not paying their fair share, which deprives vital public services of the funding they need.
“The public can be assured that we will continue to take on and defeat tax avoidance wherever we find it.”
Mr Degorce paid the inflated price of £22 million for the rights of two Paramount Picture films, Tropic Thunder and The Love Guru, although he only paid £4.8 million of his own money, with the rest provided in the form of a loan through Paramount Pictures.
He then sold the rights back to Goldcrest Pictures on the same day for a fraction of the price.
By claiming the difference as a trading loss, he was able to off-set the manufactured £19 million loss against his hedge fund income in an attempt to pay zero tax in his 2006-07 tax return.
HMRC successfully argued that this did not amount to trading and protected £7.5 million of taxpayer money in this case, and £36.1million in related cases, it says. Since the Goldcrest scheme was implemented, anti-avoidance legislation has been enacted to prevent the use of similar schemes in the future, according to HMRC.