“Opportunities knock” by Danielle Ford, Head of Tax Disputes and Resolutions at Haysmacintyre LLP.

Danielle Ford and Riocard Hoye explain HMRC’s recently announced settlement opportunity relating to the Eclipse film schemes.

On 6 September 2021, HMRC announced a settlement opportunity for ‘individual’ members of all Eclipse LLPs (Eclipse). Those under criminal investigation by HMRC are excluded from the settlement opportunity. HMRC will contact those members with an offer, which will be valid for six months from issuance; the deadline will vary for each member.

The background

The settlement opportunity will be available for those who took part in the Eclipse film partnerships, excluding individuals who are under criminal investigation by HMRC, in a move that may bring in over £2 billion to the Exchequer. The Eclipse film partnerships were a tax structure developed and marketed by Ingenious involving the ‘sale and leaseback’ of rights to films.

Rights to films were purchased by the partnerships, funded by loans, and the rights were then leased to production companies.
Payments from production companies to fund the loans and interest were allocated to individual partnership members. These payments were never received by the individual partners leading to dry income/dry tax (where tax is paid on income or gains the individual has not actually received, known in colloquial terms as ‘dry income’).

The partnership made losses in respect of the interest payments of the loans and the individual partners claimed relief against other income on their tax returns. HMRC contended the relief was not due as the partners had not actually incurred losses, and pursued this in the courts.

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