Isle of Man aircraft VAT raised in UK Parliament, Appleby says it did not advise on business jet imports


Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK opposition, has used Prime Minister Questions to ask Prime Minister Theresa May about the importation of business jets into the European Union through the Isle of Man.

Corbyn (pictured) has called for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to investigate and prosecute where rules have been broken. The Isle of Man Government had already asked the UK to look into the matter.

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His questions come before journalists working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) publish stories resulting from a data leak at Appleby Global, a leading off-shore law firm.

Appleby has also told Corporate Jet Investor that it did not advise on the importation of business jets. Instead this was handled by Estera, a trust business spun off in a December 2015 management buyout.

“We would like to clarify that Appleby does not undertake VAT aircraft registration work. In fact, under the sale agreement of our fiduciary business to Estera, this was specifically reserved for Estera,” said Appleby in a statement.

But a spokesman for Estera said it was “wrong” to suggest the company gives advice on importing business jets.

“It is important to stress that Estera gives no advice whatsoever, legal, tax, structuring or otherwise, to clients,” he said. “Estera requires all clients to obtain independent advice prior to the establishment of any aviation leasing structure. Estera expects the client to obtain assurances from its advisers that the structure is tax compliant and otherwise suitable to the client’s circumstances. We operate in close cooperation with our regulators and in line with all relevant regulations currently in force in the Isle of Man and other jurisdictions.”

Questions in the Commons

Both May and Corbyn started today’s Prime Minister’s Questions with comments on allegations about harassment involving MPs. Corbyn then used his first question to ask about the Isle of Man.

“In 2010 the Labour Government intervened through HMRC to shut down an Isle of Man scheme used to import yachts into the European Union and thus avoid tax,” said Corbyn. “A similar scheme has recently been exposed relating to the import of business jets into the Isle of Man. Can the Prime Minister assure the House that HMRC will investigate these new allegations diligently?”

May responded: “I can assure him that, where cases are referred to HMRC, they are taken seriously and they do look into those measures seriously.”

Corbyn said: “Mr Speaker, 957 business jets in the Isle of Man seems a bit excessive for any island anywhere. I hope it is investigated and that tax is collected from those people trying to avoid it.”

The ICIJ is expected to release stories from the data breach at Appleby Global soon. Journalists from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, France’s Le Monde, German media, Japanese TV and the BBC have been working on the story since January.

The BBC’s Panorama programme has said that it will be broadcasting a special investigation on Sunday. It interviewed Howard Quayle, the chief minister of the Isle of Man, at the end of October.

In Parliament, Corbyn said that the leaks from Appleby are believed to be of a similar size to the so-called Panama Papers.