Paparazzi boss loses £1m tax appeal thanks to dog

·3 min read
Darryn Lyons, now resident in Australia, at the Melbourne Cup - Don Arnold/WireImage
Darryn Lyons, now resident in Australia, at the Melbourne Cup - Don Arnold/WireImage

A millionaire former paparazzi boss has lost an appeal against paying a capital gains tax bill after a judge ruled his dog showed he was living in the UK.

Darryn Lyons, who ran agency Big Pictures and drew attention when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2011 with a surgically enhanced six-pack, went to court to fight a capital gains tax bill totalling more than a million pounds.

The bill related to the sale of properties he owned in the UK during the tax year 2012-13. Mr Lyons claimed he was not a resident in the UK during that tax period however, and was not liable to pay the bill.

The businessman and reality star, who is now mayor of Geelong in Victoria, Australia, had been in the process of moving back to the country in November 2011. He had transferred a large amount of his jewellery and his Ferrari to Australia in this period.

But the judge in the Tax Tribunal found that Mr Lyons' dog, Amber, to whom he was "extremely attached", was still in Britain during the tax period in question.

Judge Tracey Bowler found that the process for moving Amber to Australia, which can take around six months, had not started until January 2012, pushing Mr Lyons' residency into the next tax year.

Judge Bowler said: "Mr Lyons had taken a large amount of jewellery to Australia and his prized Ferrari was moved there in November 2011.

"[But] Mr Lyons’s dog, Amber, to whom he was extremely attached, remained in the UK until some time after July 2012, although work had commenced in December 2011 to identify what steps were needed to transport Amber to Australia.

"None of the six-month process for her shipping started until January 2012, which was therefore consistent with Mr Lyons moving to Australia after 6 April 2012 and not before.

"Steps were not taken to relocate Amber, to whom he was devoted, until January 2012."

Judge Bowler added that Mr Lyons' home in the UK remained the place to which he returned on Apr 29, 2012 and where he had accumulated "so much" of his personal possessions, as well as much of his archive material.

"He continued as chairman of Big Pictures Ltd and maintained investments such as the partnership interest and bank accounts in the UK, as well as those matters connected with day to day life in a place such as doctor and dentist registrations and registration on the electoral role," the judge added.

Dog and girlfriend in UK

"His dog remained in the UK and his girlfriend was living here. At the end of April 2012, Mr Lyons still retained a large archive of around 80 filing cabinets’ worth of pictures in the UK. Those pictures were items he valued highly.

"Not only were they sensitive materials but they were the core of the business he had set up and operated over many years. If they had simply been sensitive they could have been shredded when he moved, but Mr Lyons preserved them.

"Overall therefore, we conclude that while it is clear that Mr Lyons had set in motion various steps to enable him to relocate to Australia in 2012, those steps had not reached the point of being a 'substantial loosening of ties to the UK' until after 6 April 2012.

"As a result Mr Lyons was UK tax resident during a part of 2012/13."

The judge dismissed his appeal against the capital gains tax assessment.