How Darren Lyons’ dog cost him $2 million in the UK courts

London: Ex-paparazzo Darryn Lyons has lost an appeal in the British courts over a seven-figure capital gains tax bill after a judge ruled his dog showed he was living in the UK.

The one-time popularly elected Liberal mayor of Geelong went to court to fight a tax bill totalling £1.087 million ($2 million), which officials said related to the sale of properties he owned in the UK in 2012-13.

Darryn Lyons in 2016 after being sacked as mayor of Geelong. Credit:Joe Armao

The 57-year-old had 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 TV star, who came to prominence as founder of the world’s largest celebrity photo agency Big Photos, had been in the process of moving back to Australia in November 2011.

Lyons, who once appeared on Britain’s Celebrity Big Brother with a surgically enhanced six-pack, had transferred a large amount of his jewellery and his Ferrari to Australia during the period.

But The Telegraph of London reported the judge in the Tax Tribunal found that Lyons’ dog, Amber, to whom he was said to be “extremely attached”, was still in Britain during that financial year. In the UK, the tax year start date is April 6 of each calendar year and the tax year-end date is April 5 of the following year.

Judge Tracey Bowler found that the process for moving Amber to Australia, which can take up to six months because of strict quarantine laws, had not started until January 2012, pushing Lyons’ residency into the next tax year.

She said the dog, Amber, 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,” the paper quoted her as saying.

Darryn Lyons.

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

The judge added that Lyons’ home in the UK remained the place to which he returned on April 29, 2012 and where he had accumulated “so much” of his personal possessions, as well as much of his archive material.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

The tribunal also found that Lyons had maintained investments 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 roll”.

The judge dismissed his appeal against the capital gains tax assessment, ruling that while it was clear that Lyons had set in motion steps to relocate to Australia in 2012, they had not reached the point of being a “substantial loosening of ties to the UK” until after April 6 that year.

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