The scheme was initially used by the Manchester company, solely for its own properties, but around April 2009 this was extended to properties owned by approximately 100 third party landlords. The enquiry found that between March 2008 and 31 March 2011, operation of the scheme had facilitated the avoidance of paying business rate liabilities of approximately £8.9 million and generated fee income of £1.4 million for the company operating the scheme.
In winding-up the 13 companies, the court found that they never traded. Instead, they were used as vehicles in the operation of the scheme under which they signed a lease in respect of premises which would otherwise have been vacant. Each of the companies were then placed into Members Voluntary Liquidation but no liquidator was appointed to deal with the winding-up of its affairs. The effect was that the landlord was no longer liable for business rates and the councils were unable to collect any National Non-Domestic Rates due on the premises.
The court also found that there was a lack of transparency over the identities of those controlling the affairs of the companies.
Commenting on the case, Investigation Supervisor, Alex Deane, said;
“In making the decision to wind-up these companies, the court is sending a clear message that schemes which abuse the insolvency regime to avoid paying business rates liabilities are not acceptable”
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