‘Mrs Brown’ stars put over £2m in tax avoidance scheme

Three stars of the television sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys diverted more than £2m (€2.26m) to a tax-avoidance scheme, according to the Paradise Papers leak that has revealed the offshore investments of numerous high-profile celebrities.

The show’s creator, Brendan O’Carroll, 62, who plays a foul-mouthed matriarch, is not involved in the scheme detailed in the papers, but members of his family are.

They include his daughter, Fiona, who plays Maria Brown in the show, and her husband Martin Delany, who plays Fr Trevor Brown, along with Paddy Houlihan, who plays Dermot Brown.

They made use of a scheme that used trusts based in Mauritius and a series of loans and consultancy payments to reduce the tax they paid in the UK and Ireland.

The papers reveal that the three individuals transferred money to companies in Mauritius that they effectively owned. Their money came from fees issued by the production company behind the hit comedy show.

Brendan O’Carroll told the BBC that neither he nor his companies have been involved in tax-avoidance schemes, and that the actors’ wages were paid into a UK company bank account.

The actors named in the Paradise documents used a complicated web of offshore companies and trusts to avoid paying tax on their earnings. Money for their work was paid from O’Carroll’s production company into a UK company account that transferred the money to a trust in Mauritius, which itself took 12.5%.

The evidence comes from offshore law firm Appleby, and details the exact figures that were funnelled through the scheme.

Houlihan and the Delanys have not commented on the revelations. BBC Panorama’s Richard Bilton confronted Fiona Delany, but she refused to give any response to the revelations.

The documents show that in the 2014-15 financial year, Martin Delany’s offshore company received £448,095 and Fiona Delany’s received £448,168. Documentation for the following financial year shows Paddy Houlihan’s company had assets of £696,349, Fiona Delany’s had £715,122, and her husband’s £725,030.

Houlihan and Delany were put in touch with advisers behind the scheme by accountant Roy Lyness, who was also behind a Jersey-based tax avoidance used by British comedian Jimmy Carr in 2012.

Among other high profile names identified in the papers is Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton who avoided tax on his £16.5m luxury jet. The Paradise Papers show a £3.3m Vat refund was given after the Bombardier Challenger 605 was imported into the Isle of Man in 2013.

It appears a leasing deal set up by advisers was artificial and did not comply with an EU and UK ban on refunds for private use — although he may have been entitled to one for business.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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