Pied à Terre director David Moore has warned the country's restaurateurs to clean up their tronc systems or pay the price.
Moore admitted the acclaimed two-Michelin starred restaurant had been investigated by the Inland Revenue's (IR) Operation Gourmet, and threatened with a fine of nearly £200,000.
"We believed we had been running a proper tronc scheme and dismissed inquiries to the contrary," said Moore. "But the information out there was, and still is, difficult to understand. With the best will in the world, it's easy to fall foul of the regulations."
The restaurant contravened tronc regulations because management was controlling how money was distributed and receiving cash from it themselves.
A new scheme now operates, with tronc money distributed among staff on a "points system". No directors benefit from the scheme, and no mention of tronc is made in staff contracts.
The changes, combined with negotiations with the IR, resulted in the fine being cut to £36,000. "The IR doesn't want to put restaurants out of business, but you've got to face up to the problem," said Moore.
Steve Wright, tronc expert at accountancy firm Vantis, also warned restaurants to be vigilant despite continuing uncertainty over regulations.
"The IR is currently taking advice as to whether the E24 document outlining tronc guidelines published in February is a correct interpretation of the law as it stands," he said (Caterer, 8 March 2004).
It is understood that IR cases against Conran Restaurants and the Schrager group will be heard towards the end of this year.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 29 July 2004