Battered, bewildered and furious, the Ark Pensions victims are gradually coming to terms with the fact that this will be a long and determined battle.
In 2011, when financial advisers (plausible, credible and slick) assured the victims their pensions would be transferred to a legitimate HMRC-“approved” scheme which would allow a tax-free lump sum of 50% – structured as an unsecured, low-interest loan, it was not surprising that so many people took up the offer. The offer didn’t come cheap, as there were fees of between 8% and 13% (sometimes more).
Stephen Ward of Premier Pension Solutions had been running seminars around the UK to promote the Ark scheme to introducers and victims alike and was responsible for a third of all the transfers into Ark – totalling over £10 million. He used his status as a CII Level 6 qualified former pensions examiner and author of the Tolleys Pensions Taxation Manual to lull the victims into a false sense of security.
Within a matter of months, weeks or even days, the Ark victims learned that the scheme had been suspended and placed in the hands of Dalriada Trustees. In the High Court in 2011, Justice Bean, declared the pension withdrawals/loans (called MPVAs – Maximising Pension Value Arrangement) as unauthorised payments and the whole scheme a fraud on the power of investment.
The Ark pension victims – 486 in total – now face repayment of the “tax-free” lump sums which are classed as loans. They also potentially face 150% tax on the loans, even if they are paid back. HMRC is trying to get the tax at 55% on the receiving end and the making end of the loans, plus 40% on the scheme itself. HMRC is also trying to tax those victims who did not receive a loan at all.
The tax is being vigorously defended – both by Pension Life and Dalriada Trustees. The Ark Class Action is asking parliamentary candidates to back a motion for a tax concession for victims of fraud. The victims want to ensure those responsible for this appalling situation are called to account and made to put the members back into the position they should have been in before their pensions were transferred to the Ark schemes and the loans taken out.
It is not going to be a quick or easy battle, but all the Ark victims are determined not to take this lying down – especially those who did not receive a loan but are being threatened with a tax liability just because “they intended getting a loan”.
During week commencing 19th June 2017, the victims will be challenging Dalriada Trustees in the High Court Beddoe proceedings. Dalriada will be asking the court for permission to use the Ark members’ funds to take legal action against them to recover the MPVA loans – around £11 million in total. If we fail to challenge the application successfully, it will be a race between Dalriada and HMRC to see who can bankrupt the victims first and make them homeless. HMRC claim the tax will remain payable even if the loans are repaid.