Landlord loses appeal in tax avoidance case

A  case involving Michael and Bridget Brown, who attempted to avoid Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) by using a tax avoidance scheme through an unlimited company, has reached its conclusion with the Court of Appeal dismissing their appeal against HMRC. Here are the key points from the case:

  1. Background: The Browns purchased a property in Surrey valued at £955,000 using an unlimited company called Earlswood, which was part of an SDLT tax avoidance scheme promoted by Premier Strategies Limited.
  2. Scheme Structure: The scheme involved multiple pre-planned steps, including setting up the unlimited company, purchasing the property through the company, and transferring the property to the Browns.
  3. HMRC Determination: Four years after the sale, HMRC issued a notice to the Browns demanding £38,200 in unpaid SDLT, arguing that the scheme amounted to tax avoidance.
  4. Legal Proceedings: The Browns appealed the HMRC determination at the First Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal but lost both times. They then took the case to the Court of Appeal.
  5. Court of Appeal Decision: The Court of Appeal upheld the previous rulings, stating that the Browns’ scheme amounted to tax avoidance. They ruled that the acquisition of the property by the Browns must be disregarded for SDLT purposes.
  6. Judicial Reasoning: The judges determined that the Browns indirectly controlled the company and that the scheme was set up solely to avoid SDLT. They emphasized that HMRC was entitled to make a determination of the SDLT chargeable in respect of the transaction.
  7. Procedural Issues: The Browns’ barrister argued procedural and administrative reasons for dismissing the case, but the Court of Appeal allowed HMRC to bring up new points related to the case.
  8. Implications: The decision has broader implications for the proper assessment and collection of SDLT, emphasizing the courts’ stance against tax avoidance schemes.

In summary, the Court of Appeal’s ruling confirms HMRC’s determination that the Browns’ use of an SDLT tax avoidance scheme was not permissible, resulting in the dismissal of their appeal.

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