The Formula One Group operated by Bernie Ecclestone has become the latest company to be put under the spotlight for using controversial tax avoidance schemes to limit the amount they have to pay to the UK government.
According to a prospectus published ahead of the planned flotation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange, F1's UK tax liability was kept to just under £1 million despite a pre-tax profit of £305 million, despite corporation tax set at 24 per cent of a company's annual reported profit. A further £8.6 million was paid in overseas taxes.
F1 makes most of its money from race-hosting fees, along with money paid for television broadcasting rights and from advertising and sponsorship deals. Although the company is based in the UK, its tax liability is minimised by completely legal yet nonetheless currently controversial tactics, in this case by arranging a number of loans with other parts of the group that are situated overseas.
"The group's tax charge is materially dependent on the amount of UK tax relief available to it for interest expense on certain intra-group loans," reports the prospectus of the affairs of F1's key revenue-generating company, Formula One World Championship.
"We have an efficient tax position. We expect our aggregate cash tax payments to remain broadly consistent with prior years," the prospectus reassures potential investors. "In order to obtain greater certainty regarding our affairs we have since 2008 operated pursuant to a formal advance thin capitalisation agreement with the UK's tax authority, HM Revenue & Customs."
The prospectus adds that the agreement lasts through to December 31 2017. The ultimate parent company of F1, Delta Topco, is based in Jersey where the applicable corporation tax rate is currently zero.
newspaper conducted a further analysis of all 12 companies most directly associated with the sport - F1, the teams, engine manufacturers and Silverstone Circuit
- and found total corporation tax contributions of £1.9 million on revenues of £2.1 billion in 2011.
Other than the F1 company only Cosworth reported paying tax that year, with teams avoiding liability by reinvesting any profit they made during the season into racing operations so that the company at best only breaks even.
The controversial issue of prominent companies using strategies designed to minimise their tax liabilities has been in the news ever since it was revealed that Amazon UK paid just £2.4 million in corporation tax last year despite making sales of £4.3 billion, thanks to Luxembourg tax rules. Google similarly paid little tax after routing £3.2 billion in sales turnover through Dublin.