Matalan founder loses tax court case over share sale proceeds
John Hargreaves, the founder of fashion and lifestyle retailer Matalan, has lost a long-running legal battle over a multimillion-pound tax bill.
The defeat in Britain’s top tax court means Hargreaves must now pay capital gains tax on the sale of £231 million of Matalan shares as far back as May 2000.
Hargreaves has been in dispute with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over his tax status for nearly 20 years. HMRC has been chasing him for £84 million, although the final amount owed has not yet been determined. Once interest is added, it could reach as high as £135 million, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
Hargreaves floated Matalan on the London Stock Exchange in 1998. Two years later he moved to Monaco and soon after arriving in the tax haven principality he submitted a P85 form to HMRC telling officials of his status.
Court documents at the time revealed that he did not fill in the capital gains pages in the tax return because he did not consider himself a resident in the UK any longer when he cashed in his Matalan shares.
In his tax return, the entrepreneur had said he would spend “no more than two months per annum” in the UK. However, court documents also show that he continued to work three days a week at Matalan’s head office in Liverpool and stayed at the same house in the UK that he had lived in before moving to Monaco. During the 2000-01 tax year, he was in the UK for at least part of 152 days.
After a “a period of discussion” with his advisers, HMRC then decided in January 2007 that Hargreaves owed £80 million of capital gains tax and a further £4 million of income tax.
Then came a long series of HMRC claims and counter arguments by Hargreaves that let to his latest appeal with The Upper Tribunal, the highest court that oversees tax cases .It ruled against Hargreaves this month.
However, a spokesman for Hargreaves told the newspaper he is “actively considering appealing” against the latest judgment.
A spokesman for HMRC said it “welcomes this long-awaited ruling which supports our use of discovery assessments in these high-value cases, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone pays the right tax at the right time to help fund our vital public services.”
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