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December 16, 2016

HMRC investigates UK celeb tax profit made on empty data centres

Empty Cobalt data centres lead to HMRC requesting celebrity tax profit.

By Hannah Williams

HM Revenue & Customs are looking to claw back millions of pounds in tax relief given to celebrities as part of a scheme involving two empty data centres.

According to the BBC, celebrities including Wayne Rooney and Jimmy Carr were among 675 people who received £131m in tax relief from a 2011 £79m investment – amounting to a £50m ‘tax profit’ for the group of investors.

The millions of pounds of investment went towards the building of two data centres on Tyneside – both of which remain empty. The company behind the project, Harcourt Capital, have stated that they are set to receive their first tenants soon.

Cobalt data centresThere has been no suggestion of wrongdoing by anyone involved in the scheme, designed to kickstart economic growth in deprived areas, nor were the people who invested money aware that the Cobalt Data Centres 2 and 3 would be empty for a period of time.

The BBC reported that they understood that some investors had received tax payment demands, with these tax payments demands, or accelerated payment notices, issued by HMRC if they believe too little tax has been paid.

Harcourt confirmed in the BBC reports that some investors had been ‘forced’ to fight the payment demands from HMRC, taking the dispute to tribunal and court. The BBC also reported that Harcourt Capital had said that HMRC had started an inquiry in into the data centres in 2012, although no work was carried out until 2015.

In a statement, Harcourt said: “We are seriously concerned that HMRC’s actions are treating investors who fundamentally supported successive governments’ efforts to successfully regenerate derelict areas of the country extremely unfairly.

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The Cobalt data centres, located on Tyneside, and are a tier 3 campus of three data centre buildings with 80MVA available.


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