Two Irish soccer stars backed controversial tax shelter in Britain
TWO Irish international soccer stars invested in a controversial tax avoidance scheme linked to a host of celebrities, sports and leading business figures, the Sunday Independent has learned.
The €45m Icebreaker scheme, where Take That singer Gary Barlow and his bandmates and former England manager Terry Venables were among the famous names involved, was described last week by a British court as set up to avoid tax.
Investment schemes set up by Icebreaker include Starbrooke, where former premiership players Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt are directors, though both players have stressed to the Sunday Independent that their tax affairs are in order and up to date.
The schemes were used by Gary Barlow and other Take That band members to avoid millions in tax, according to a court ruling in London last week. Terry Venables and Olympic athlete Colin Jackson were also directors of Icebreaker partner investments.
AIB film investment executive Kieran O'Driscoll backed one of the Icebreaker schemes, saying on Friday that it was "a personal investment".
Starbrooke, which was one of dozens of Icebreaker investment vehicles described by the British courts as tax avoidance schemes, invested £6.9m on a book about Barcelona FC and two music albums, but generated just £1,937, according to court documents.
There were around 50 partnerships including Starbrooke, where Hunt and Doyle were involved. Icebreaker claimed total losses of £446m.
The schemes invested in music and film projects, availing of tax reliefs intended to help creative industries. Losses could be used by members to be off set against their tax liabilities. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is expected to demand repayment of tax reliefs from the schemes.
In a British court case taken by the British tax authorities, Starbrooke was among the Icebreaker partner schemes named in the case where the judge said: "The Icebreaker scheme is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme." The partnerships would make deals over intellectual property rights, but the judge found this mechanism was set up in a way that losses were inevitable.
"I have not received any tax benefit from this investment. My UK tax returns are up to date and paid in full," Kevin Doyle said in a statement to the Sunday Independent. Speaking on his behalf, Stephen Hunt's solicitor said that Mr Hunt's taxes were "paid in full and are fully up to date". Mr Hunt declined to comment further.