Joel Crane and his business partner owe £1.35million to HMRC. Crane started his business, which specialises in graphic design, in 2004. In 2009 he was told that the business was doing well, so he should look into some tax planning. This was where his problems began. From 2009 to 2015 he made use of a scheme that enabled him and his business partner to be paid in the form of loans (commonly called disguised remuneration loans). This minimised the amount of tax Crane had to pay and maximised the amount of money he could use for himself and the business. He checked with his accountant that it was above board. He said it was. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t.
“You ask all the questions,” Crane says. “’Is this legal?’ ‘Is this normal?’ If somebody had sat down to us and said, ‘This is aggressive tax avoidance and this may come back and bite you on the backside’, then there’s no way we would have got involved in it.” (cont.)