Isle of man ‘closely mirrors’ UK rules, says Chief Minister
7 November 2017
The Isle of Man's Chief Minister has insisted the island is not a tax haven and defended rules reportedly used by racing driver Lewis Hamilton to avoid VAT on his £16.5 million private jet.
The BBC has reported that Paradise Papers documents show a £3.3 million VAT refund was given after the aircraft was imported into the Isle of Man in 2013.
A spokesman for the Mercedes F1 world champion said that everything was "above board".
Howard Quayle, the head of the Manx government, suggested Hamilton chose the island because its aircraft registry was the best in the world rather than for tax reasons.
"We have the biggest European register but that doesn't mean to say that we do anything differently to the UK," he said.
"To prove that point we have asked HM Treasury to come in and carry out an assessment of our VAT practices on business jets."
In total, the Isle of Man has refunded more than £790m to 231 aircraft leasing companies that have imported jets such as Hamilton's, the BBC reported.
But Mr Quayle told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He would have got the same treatment had he gone to the UK registry.
"The reason why he used the Isle of Man registry is that our aircraft registry has just been voted the best aircraft registry in the world."
He said the Isle of Man "closely mirrors" the UK's customs rules and regulations.
It was “fully compliant” with OECD tax and transparency rules, he added.
“I don’t think we are a tax haven, for a start.
“That’s not me saying that, that’s the OECD, that’s the University of Amsterdam who did a report very recently listing tax havens, the Isle of Man wasn’t one of them.
“Should there be universal standards? Absolutely.
“I think that’s absolutely key going forwards that when standards are brought in the whole world adopts them rather than the likes of ourselves who adopt them but half the countries in the world don’t and therefore it puts you at a disadvantage.”
It is alleged that Hamilton’s accountants and lawyers helped him, and others, set up companies through which they rented their own jets from themselves.
Any private jet purchased outside the European Union is subject to 20% VAT.
Under UK and EU legislation, Hamilton would have been entitled to a VAT rebate on the jet if it was to be used purely for business purposes.
However, the BBC’s Panorama programme has seen documents which suggest the 32-year-old intended to make private flights about a third of the time.
A spokesman for Hamilton said: “As a global sportsman who pays tax in a large number of countries, Lewis relies upon a team of professional advisers who manage his affairs.
“Those advisers have assured Lewis that everything is above board and the matter is now in the hands of his lawyers.”
Hamilton won his fourth world drivers’ title at the Mexico Grand Prix last month.