Millionaire loses appeal over £300k bill for 'Britain's best man cave'

A millionaire who built ‘Britain’s best man cave’ has been ordered to demolish the illegal giant leisure complex he built in his garden and faces £300,000 in costs.

Graham Wildin, 69, lost an appeal against tax and costs for his 10,000 sq ft pad in Cinderford, Gloucestershire which boasts a bowling alley, cinema, squash courts, private casino and bar.

The wealthy accountant claimed the costs for his £200,000 extension at the back of his home were tax deductible because it was part of a holiday let business. 

He argued that the complex would be made available to people who rented holiday accommodation or were paying members.

But his claim has been rejected by a tax tribunal which found that his purpose was not to offer the facilities for outside use but to keep them ‘for the private enjoyment of his immediate family circle.’

Graham Wildin, 69, pictured above, built a £200,000 ‘man cave’ at his Gloucestershire home

Mr Wildin’s 10,000 sq ft leisure complex includes a bowling alley, cinema and private casino

Mr Wildin’s appeal was against income tax demands of £83,382.78, VAT of £157,460 and tax overdue penalties and surcharges of £56,787.87, making a grand total due of £297,630.65.

He has been involved in a long running legal battle for more than eight years over his development of the complex and has been ordered by a High Court judge to demolish it by March 10 this year.

Mr Wildin told the tax tribunal hearing in June last year that the development was a business venture and not just for personal use.

But the tribunal noted in its judgement on February 3 that in an interview with a national newspaper – the Daily Mail – in November 2014 about his dispute with Forest of Dean District Council over the unauthorised building of the complex Mr Wildin stated that the development was for his family and was private.

It was concluded that the accountant was not ‘a credible or reliable witness’ and that there were ‘significant inconsistencies’ in his evidence. 

Graham Wildin has been told to knock down ‘Britain’s best man cave’ by March 10 this year

The accountant, pictured above, built a leisure complex which includes a cinema and bar

Mr Wildin, pictured above in his private Apple Casino, now faces a £300,000 tax and VAT bill

HMRC investigator Stuart Ferguson did not think the business forecasts put forward by Mr Wildin were realistic and he told him so in a letter five years ago.

He said: ‘It is my opinion that you have attempted to deliberately mis-describe transactions in a way that was designed to mislead HMRC.

‘Further to this you have claimed deductions and VAT repayments which, as a qualified professional, you must have known you are not entitled to, due to the asset being used personally.’

Mr Wildin told the tribunal that there were three business activities run from his home and neighbouring houses in Cinderford – storage facilities, membership of the leisure complex and holiday accommodation involving other nearby houses.

He claimed his tax and VAT returns were all accurate so there was no case for penalties and maintained he was right to withhold payments as he was owed VAT repayments.

The tribunal heard that Mr Wildin was interviewed under caution at Cheltenham Police Station in October 2015 and was asked why the national newspapers were quoting him as saying: ‘This development is for my family.I’m doing this for my family.’

He replied: ‘It has to be for the incidental enjoyment of the house for me not to need the planning. Once the building’s there it can be used for any purpose.

‘As long as you then don’t use it for a club, because it’s commercial.You don’t have to apply for planning to have it as holiday lets because it’s part of the house.’

An investigator from HMRC  said an idea to make the leisure complex at his Gloucestershire home a business plan ‘weren’t realistic’

The 10,000 sq ft ‘man cave’ in Cinderford, Gloucestershire, pictured above, was built just over eight years ago

He also told the force: ‘I went on the fact I didn’t need planning consent and all you have to do then is pass five tests – including that to be a holiday let you have to provide more than just the house, which I was intending to do, and the sports facilities I saw it actually made it a business.’

Later, a police officer wrote to Mr Wildin telling him the main concerns of the tax authorities and asking him to respond.

Mr Wildin replied that he intended to launch his own website to commence lettings ‘as soon as the six bedroom house is finished, within the next two or three months’.

The police statement added: ‘On the basis of the income projection of the letting business attached, Mr Wildin asserted that it was clear that it was a ‘commercial venture’, and ‘HMRC are likely to receive in excess of £2 million in VAT and profits tax over the next twenty years’.’

Judge Heidi Poon, chair of the tax tribunal, said in her judgement: ‘We are not satisfied that there was a trade being carried on by Mr Wildin, trading as Forest of Dean Luxury Holidays.’

Graham Wildin, who built ‘Britain’s best man cave’ at his home, has been ordered to demolish it

Investigator Stuart Ferguson said Mr Wildin ‘deliberately tried to mislead HMRC’ about the ‘man cave’ at this home

She referred to a statement Mr Wildin made in 2014 as part of his appeal against an enforcement notice on the development.

At the time he said: ‘Children are wonderful and there can be nothing better than watching them enjoying themselves, and taking part with them is even better.

‘I am in a fortunate financial position where I am able to make my home a place in which I love to live, where my children and grandchildren and friends look forward to visiting, and which in my opinion is becoming one of the best homes in the country.

‘In providing these facilities I am doing no harm to anyone. 

‘The building is for the incidental enjoyment of my house and is to be used by myself, my partner, my partner’s 22 year old son, my three grown up children and their spouses and my five grandchildren, whose ages now range from 10 months to 8 years, and by my close friends when they visit me.

‘My children all still have keys and visit on a regular basis and my grandchildren not only visit, but stay overnight, and for weekends. 

‘My hope is that Altea will be a home to which all future generations will love to come, to spend time together as a family, and to join in together doing things which families love to do, to fully enjoy the facilities which we have luckily been able to create in our home.’

A judge ruled Graham Wildin had no intention to use the properties as commercial letting

Judge Poon added: ‘VAT input tax relief entitlement is available to a taxable trader only if the goods or services concerned are used for the purpose of any business carried on.

‘Mr Wildin has not proved that there was a business being carried on to give rise to a ‘direct and immediate link’ for the expenditure in relation to the construction and fitting costs of the complex and the renovation costs of his home for any claims of input tax relief.

‘The infrastructure that is associated with a trade in the commercial letting of holiday accommodation was simply absent.’

She said that as far as the leisure complex was concerned ‘Mr Wildin’s intention at the time of incurring the expenditure in constructing and fitting out the Sports Complex was that it would be used solely for the private enjoyment of himself, his family and any invited guests.’

Accountant Graham Wildin claimed the 10,000 sg ft complex would be usable for people staying at a nearby leisure complex 

The deductible spending claimed on the complex was ‘plainly unsupportable; the putative trade simply did not exist, and has no prospect of commencing, given the demolition order,’ she said.

The judge concluded: ‘In relation to the residential properties, we find that during ‘the relevant periods’, the appellant had no intention to use the properties as commercial letting of furnished holiday accommodation.’

The tribunal confirmed that Mr Wilding is liable to pay the full amounts demanded by HMRC.

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