Saturday, November 27

HMRC to Move to Conservative Donor-Owned Newcastle Office Via Tax Haven | HMRC


HM Revenue and Customs has reached an agreement to relocate tax officials to a new office complex in Newcastle owned by major Conservative party donors through an offshore company based in a tax haven, The Guardian may reveal.

The department’s planned new home in northeast England is part of a regeneration scheme developed by a British Virgin Islands (BVI) entity controlled by billionaire real estate moguls David and Simon Reuben.

The deal will make government department officials responsible for preventing tax evasion work from a site owned by a subsidiary of a company based in a secret overseas tax jurisdiction.

The Reuben brothers, their families and businesses have donated £ 1.9 million to the Conservatives. Earlier this week, the brothers reported having shared a table with Boris Johnson at an exclusive fundraising dinner for the Conservative Party.

On Tuesday, officials including Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay announced that HMRC had agreed to the 25-year lease with one of the Reuben brothers’ companies.

Siblings are the second richest family in the UK, according to the The rich list of the Sunday Times. David Reuben’s son Jamie is a close ally of the prime minister and has served as treasurer for the Conservative party. He has donated over £ 750,000 to the party since Johnson entered Downing Street.

The Reuben family has built a significant presence in Newcastle in recent years and is part of the controversial Saudi-led consortium that acquired soccer club Newcastle United in October.

Company records show that the family has frequently used British Virgin Islands companies to maintain their UK business interests, which include a portfolio of luxury properties in London and a number of racetracks.

An HMRC spokesperson said the Newcastle office complex is owned and developed by a UK company, Reuben Brothers (Newcastle) Limited. However, Companies House filings show that the sole shareholder of the company when it was incorporated earlier this year was Taras Properties Limited in the BVI.

Taras Properties first acquired the site in 2013 and transferred ownership of the land to the UK company in June this year for £ 10 million, according to Land Registry records. The BVI company owns several large parcels of land in the center of Newcastle, in the area surrounding the planned HMRC offices.

A spokesman for the Reuben brothers confirmed that the British company is in the hands of Taras Properties, but insisted that the subsidiary “operates and pays taxes like a British company.”

The HMRC spokesperson insisted that the Reuben brothers’ company would be subject to normal UK tax regulation. “Lease payments and any gain on the sale are taxable in the UK,” they said. “HMRC is satisfied that the agreement represents the best value for money for the taxpayer.”

There is no indication that the Reuben brothers have committed any crime and owning property in the UK through offshore companies is perfectly legal.

But the government’s decision to relocate 9,000 HMRC employees to the site comes as it faces calls to fulfill a commitment to introduce a register of foreign companies owning property in the UK. The bill, first published in 2018, is designed to crack down on the use of offshore companies to conceal the identities of owners and their source of funds.

The fight against tax evasion and avoidance abroad is described as one of the priorities of HMRC and, earlier this year, the department plans unveiled cracking down on tax evasion abroad by targeting UK-based entities that facilitate the sale of tax evasion schemes using tax havens.

In response to the move, Dame Margaret Hodge, a Labor MP and chair of the multi-party parliamentary group on anti-corruption and responsible taxation, said: “It is outrageous that the HMRC is using taxpayers’ money to benefit someone who relies on offshore structures based on tax havens “.

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www.theguardian.com

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