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Romantic painting classed as "plant and machinery"
A ROMANTIC painting by the great Sir Joshua Reynolds has been classified as “plant and machinery” by a High Court judge.
But the unromantic term has brought to an end a long-running tax battle over the artwork – giving victory to Castle Howard, the stately home near Malton.
The painting Omai – a portrait of one of the first Pacific islanders to visit the UK – used to hang in the house but was sold for £9.4m in 2001.
The proceeds partly funded the divorce of Simon Howard - whose family has owned the house since it was built in the 18th-century - from his wife, Annette.
The portrait was part of the estate of the late George Howard, one-time chairman of the BBC’s board of governors, and ever since the sale, his executors have been in dispute with the authorities over whether the £9.4m should be subject to capital gains tax.
The executors claimed the work had been an essential draw for visitors and as it was used in the running of the house should be exempt from the tax.
And after a lengthy legal dispute High Court Mr Justice Morgan agreed, ruling the painting fell into the category of “plant and machinery”.
He said it should therefore be viewed as a piece of “apparatus” and a “wasting asset” that became worthless 50 years after it was placed on public display in the 1950s – at least in theory - even though its value had continued to multiply since then.
Other landed families with valuable collections of art or antiques are understood to have been watching developments carefully – and are expected to see the result as a boost for their struggles to maintain their inheritance against tax.