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Coutts & UBS in firing line in film scheme legal battle

Coutts & UBS in firing line in film scheme legal battle

Investors in alleged tax avoidance schemes have kick-started a legal battle against Ingenious as well as banks Coutts, HSBC and UBS, according to reports.

The investors, which include former Lazard International chairman Ken Costa and Investec’s Christian Hess, have issued a High Court writ against Ingenious and 50 other associated companies, the Daily Mail reported.

The news comes after Coutts wrote to clients a year ago warning them about a possible HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax probe into film investment schemes.

In the letter Coutts said: 'Coutts historically provided tax advice to some clients in respect to a number of genuine film financing arrangements.  

‘The relevant risks were prominently highlighted and where appropriate it was made clear that there was a risk to a HMRC challenge.'   

Ingenious was behind a series of investment schemes, many of which invested in film. The schemes attracted billions from around 1,300 investors and many offered generous tax benefits.

However, the schemes are the subject of a long-running legal battle with HMRC which claims they were aimed primarily at tax avoidance rather than investing in films.

Ahead of a further legal showdown HMRC has demanded investors pay any disputed tax upfront, on the condition that it will be repaid if Ingenious wins the court battle.

The investors claim they were wrongly advised to enter the schemes or were not made aware of the risks involved.

In a statement given to the Daily Mail, Ingenious said: ‘The film partnerships run by Ingenious Media have already generated over £1 billion in taxable income for the Treasury.

'They helped to bring movies including Avatar, Vera Drake and Hotel Rwanda to the screen and are clearly run for profit. These claims are entirely without merit and we will vigorously defend any actions brought against us.'

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Earlier this year the Sunday Times published a list of 140 stars who had invested in Ingenious Media's film scheme, who between them could have saved up to £26 million in tax.

Names on the list included former England cricket captains Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussian, ex Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman.  

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