A top TV producer and Tarporley landowner got the shock of her life when she was hit with a massive penalty of almost £200,000 after paying a tax bill just a week late.
Susanna Posnett, who owns the working Tiresford Farm off Nantwich Road, has been the source of a stream of TV gold, working with Prince Charles and Ant and Dec during her latest projects.
But her father’s death in 2005 also left her a very wealthy woman and a major landowner in Cheshire and Anglesey.
And she hit a goldmine in August last year when she sold a plot of land inherited form her dad for £10,360,000 to developers.
Unfortunately, however, Miss Posnett was working so hard on her TV shows that she forgot to pay the VAT due on the sale on time.
The bill was paid on October 15 last year - a week after it should have been - and she was hit with a penalty totalling £217,701.
She challenged the bill, claiming it was ‘plainly unfair’ and ‘disproportionate’, but a tax tribunal has now ruled she must pay up every penny.
Explaining the delayed payment, Miss Posnett said her life as a producer was ‘stressful, inexorable and unremitting’.
She had at the time been working ‘extremely long hours’ on the ‘extremely challenging’ ‘Modern Times: The Last Dukes’, a flagship documentary on the Prince’s Trust and many more.
“Working with the Prince of Wales and his family and Ant and Dec required exceptional time management and flexibility,” she explained.
She had also ‘invested considerable time and emotion’ into the land sale to David Wilson Homes and in ensuring that the result would be ‘a quality development’.
Her VAT bills in the past had never gone over £4,000 and she thought the late payment penalty would only be about £100.
Judge Amanda Brown, sitting at First-tier Tribunal, accepted that Miss Posnett was an honest and reliable witness.
‘Exceptionally over-stretched’ at the time, she had fallen behind on her paper work and paying VAT was ‘very low down her list’ of priorities.
She thought that paying the bill a few days late was not that serious, but the judge noted: “Unfortunately, as she now knows, that was not the case”.
Previous late payments
Miss Posnett had paid VAT late several times in the past and what she didn’t realise was that penalties go up with each delay.
Revenue and Customs ended up charging her 15 per cent of the total VAT due on the land sale, about £1.45 million.
Miss Posnett pointed out that she is ‘not a sophisticated property company’ and said her case was ‘wholly exceptional’.
Judge Brown accepted that the penalty was ‘very very large’, but ruled that Miss Posnett had ‘no reasonable excuse’ for the late payment.
“She did not, in the tribunal’s view...act as would be expected of a responsible trader”, the judge concluded.
On her father’s death, Miss Posnett inherited Tiresford Farm, which is let to a tenant, as well as a number of cottages, swathes of land and Cwm Farm, a holiday let on the Isle of Anglesey.