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Dr Who TV firm collapses 12 March 2013

The television company responsible for special effects on television shows Doctor Who, Being Human and Spooks is to be wound up.

Mercury FX Limited was established in 2004 and was responsible for some of the breath-taking effects witnessed on some of the biggest dramas on both the BBC and ITV as well as working on several projects for BBC’s Natural History Unit.

The company ran for three years under its existing brand, having been renamed from DarkHorse FX and BBC Design Bristol, prior to that.

Paul Walker and John Sallabank of Harrisons Business Recovery and Insolvency were appointed joint liquidators yesterday.

The list of creditors shows that an unpaid bill to HMRC was responsible for the company’s closure, with £31,919 owed in unpaid VAT, £47,165 in unpaid Corporation Tax and £1,200 in unpaid PAYE.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was owed £18,000 and Craig Higgins (a company director) was owed £3,049.

Speaking exclusively to Insolvency News Mercury FX director Craig Higgins confirmed that the business would cease trading.
He said: “The company is very small and is part of a bigger industry which is undergoing great pressure from subsidised competition overseas.”

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) – the largest creditor in this case – has been criticised in some quarters more recently for not allowing businesses more time to settle their debts, particularly in instances where they are the only or main creditor.

Time to pay arrangements – where businesses are typically given a year to settle their unpaid taxes – remain on offer by HMRC, but some accountancy professionals have suggested that the interpretation of the rules has changed in recent months.

Neil Pamplin, corporate and international tax director at Grant Thornton, explained that when these arrangements were first brought in, the revenue was fairly closes to the idea, but the introduction of these plans eventually led to billions of pounds locked up in the agreements.

He explains: “Then it came full circle and the reigns were well and truly pulled in and even very worthy causes were put under some scrutiny. The Revenue has had its eyes on the public exchequer and they could be accused of being slightly too lenient in the past. Whether they have gone the other way….. quite possibly.

“Their stance is that they will still be helpful and co-operative within their guidelines, but their interpretation of those sometimes feels more stringent at the moment. VAT is an odd beast. The old customs people always had harder, harsher powers than corporate and PAYE people. They were always hard in their policing of it.”

Pamplin conceded that while HMRC is still helpful to businesses suffering from tax issues, it is perhaps understandable that it is becoming stricter on enforcing the terms.



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