London: David Gower has vowed to fight an "appalling" and "unfair" tax demand with which he and several other former top England cricketers have been hit with by British authorities.
The Guardian reported today that some "very substantial" tax demands have been sent to investors in film finance schemes which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is challenging claiming they constitute tax avoidance.
Among those who have been sent "accelerated payment notices", the daily said, are former captain Michael Vaughan, England's Ashes-winning skipper in 2005.
Vaughan and then team-mates Paul Collingwood (now an assistant coach with Scotland at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand), Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles invested in Ingenious Film Partners in February and March 2005.
Former England players who are also on a lengthy list of investors, which is available for public inspection, include Gower, Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart as well as Paul Downton, now the managing director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who was working in finance at the time he was an investor.
Last May, it was revealed that several British public figures including pop star Gary Barlow, former athlete Colin Jackson and television presenter Gabby Logan had admitted to tax avoidance after being caught up in a separate scheme run by Icebreaker and arranged to harness tax relief the government had intended would support those in creative industries.
However, Ingenious is adamant its schemes are different and were properly established, approved by HMRC at the time, and went on to invest in hugely successful films including Avatar, Hotel Rwanda and Girl With a Pearl Earring.
But with any suggestion of tax avoidance, a highly contentious topic in the run-up to the country's next general election in May, and under new recent powers, HMRC can now demand up-front repayment of a disputed tax bill, even while the case is being heard.
"For me the money involved is not life-threatening, it won't wipe me out," Gower told The Guardian. "But the principle is just wrong and I want to stand up against it.
"The government wanted to encourage investment in the film industry, there was a genuine element of risk.
"The films were successful and generated more than ?1bn in taxable income and now HMRC is coming back 10 years later saying the schemes weren't valid.
He added: "There was a tax planning element to the scheme, I would be wrong to deny that; you are always looking for ways to make the most of your resources. But efficient tax planning is 100 percent legal.
"Now the political outlook has changed, tax avoidance has become unpopular and HMRC is changing the rules retrospectively, which is appalling."