Taxman focuses on Nigella after aides' fraud acquittal

By Sue McPherson

Nigella Lawson on Good Morning America. Photo / AP
Nigella Lawson on Good Morning America. Photo / AP

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson could face an investigation into their tax affairs after their two former aides were cleared on fraud charges.

Tax specialists said HM Revenue and Customs may contact the divorced couple to check whether gifts to Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo and other employees were declared as taxable benefits in kind.

The Grillos and other employees could also be pursued for tax on gifts such as holidays.

The Grillos have never suggested they declared any of the £685,000 ($1.35 million) they were accused of fraudulently spending on a company credit card, or that their employer paid National Insurance contributions on it.

Jason Collins, a tax expert at Pinsent Masons, said: "If an employer provides an employee with anything that is not specifically needed for their work, that is counted as a taxable benefit.

"So if an employer pays for an employee to go on holiday on their own, or pays for the cost of a wedding reception, as was mentioned in the trial, that should be declared."

Collins said it was up to the employer to tell HMRC how much each employee earned each year, including gifts, and to pay National Insurance, though it was up to the employee to ensure that they had paid the correct amount of income tax.

The Grillos told the jury at Isleworth Crown Court that Lawson let them buy thousands of pounds worth of clothes at a time to thank them, paid for their holidays and allowed them to buy handbags worth up to £5,000 each.

Meanwhile, Nigella is in America promoting the second series of her US cookery show The Taste. She told Good Morning America on Friday: "I have to be honest, to have not only your private life but distortions of your private life put on display is mortifying, but there are people going through an awful lot worse and to dwell on it would be self-pity, and I don't want to do that."

She also admitted that "eating chocolate" helped her get over the trauma of the trial and she is looking forward to a fresh start.

- Daily Telegraph UK

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 23 Jul 2014 23:57:06 Processing Time: 375ms