Social Media Used in Tax Residency Case
Since singer Johnny Hallyday died in 2017, there has been a battle over his £89m fortune between his biological children and their stepmother, Hallyday’s second wife whom he lived with in Los Angeles prior to his death. Hallyday’s Will disinherited his biological children, leaving his whole fortune to his second wife.
Hallyday was born in France and his children claim he remained a secret resident of France, where it is illegal to disinherit or omit children from a Will. Although his Will was written in Los Angeles (where it is legal to disinherit children), if his children’s claims are proved to be true, Hallyday’s estate would be covered by French intestacy laws.
Using Hallyday’s Instagram posts, it was found he spent 46% (168 days) of 2014 in France and 41% of 2015 (151 days) in the France. Most importantly, he spent the final eight months of his life in France whilst he fought cancer. This evidence was considered crucial, and on the basis of this the Court ruled in favour of his children, meaning the estate will be divided under French law.
Hallyday’s wife will now be considered an equal beneficiary alongside his two biological children and his two adopted children.
Originally, Hallyday left France due to crippling tax laws, he vowed never to move back to France until the tax laws relinquished its unfair grip on high earners - ironic considering this ruling now means his estate will suffer a large amount of inheritance tax.
This case should serve as a reminder that the location of your internet activity can be tracked, something that international tax authorities are likely to be doing more frequently in the future, particularly in residence and inheritance tax cases as electronic records live on after death.
If you would like to discuss this in more detail please contact our Tax Partner, Steve Crompton, on the details below:
Partner – Head of Tax
direct dial: 01942 292541
mobile: 07790 840394