After a week or so of ceiling gazing I made my first tentative visit to the allotments this morning. A ghastly ego lurks within most of us and mine was secretly hoping to find that I had been much missed, that things had gone a little awry. I have to confess that I could see no sign whatsoever that my giant intellect had been missed, my absense had made no difference. It seems that one benefit of catching a bug is a dose of much-needed humilility!
Which is probably what Gary Barlow had with his cornflakes this morning. Last week he strutted the Buck House stage with Her Majesty who within hours gave him an OBE, an award which supposedly identifies the holder as a top citizen. It now appears that the Take That star has been on the take. Like Jimmy Carr, he hasn’t been paying his taxes. Last night Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, said that the honour should be “reconsidered” after the revelation that he, and two other members of the band, put tens of millions of pounds in music industry investment vehicles that act as tax shelters designed to enable members to claim back more in tax relief that they pay in the first place.
Hughes said; ” Its probably too late to undo the honour but it should be a relevant consideration. Honours are meant to be for people who serve Britain and are good citizens in doing so. If you don’t pay your taxes you are not a fully decent citizen”. The senior Lib Demmer went on to demand that in future, the honours committee make sure that people are “clean as far as their tax affairs are concerned”.
Judging by further revelations published in today’s Times, that should lead to some rather short lists. HM Revenue and Customs has particualrly mentioned ‘film schemes’. These currently cost the taxpayer over £5 billion per year. Film schemes attract investments from Premier League footballers, television personalities and people working in the City. An investor can put in, say, £100,000 and then borrow £900,000 thus earning £1 million tax free. In theory they must eventually settle with the taxman but in reality the schemes than allow them to transfer liabilities offshore.
Investors in Terra Nova, a company set up by Tim Levy, claimed about £22 million in tax relief in 2008 after buying the rights to a number of films. They were due to pay back £18 million next year but have now been offered the opportunity to “retire” from the partnership and transfer all funds to a Luxembourg company called Sirocco. Mr Levy, 43, founded ‘Future Films’ thirteen years ago . More thn £6 billion has passed through his hands . His home in Twickenham cost £6 million in 2006, after which it underwent extensive refurbishemnt. Independent Financial Advisers who sell his investments are rewarded with stays on luxury yachts, skiing breaks.. no expense is spared. In effect it is all about investments aimed at tax avoidance.
Such schemes are news to most iof us but all th indications are that the vast majority of waelthy people are involved in something similar. The range of tax avoidance schemes is breathtaking, the amount of tax lost to the exchequer runs into dozens of billions.
It was inevitable that our dear leader would leap on to the bandwagon of criticism of Jimmy Carr when his particular scheme was exposed two days ago. But he should tread with care. Lycamobile is the Conservatives’ most generous donor after giving more than £300,00 over the last nine months. It has paid no corporation tax for three years. Government adviser Sir Philip Green banked one of the biggest pay cheques in corporate history in 2005, £1.2 billion to be precise. The money was paid to his wife who lives in Monaco and thus avoids UK tax. Lord Ashcroft has given more than £10 million to the Conservative Party but is “non-domiciled”, thus avoidng tax.
In a comment to this blog a reader commented that politicians tend to stand on the heads of others when they are sinking. How right he is. If they really are outraged by all of this they should devote time to legislating against it.
Expect the fur to fly on this over the next week or so as more and more are named and shamed. They will all produce the same defence, namely that what they do is not illegal. But they all know that what they are doing is morally indefensible. The welfare state that a civilised nation requires has to be funded out of a general pool of taxation. The vast majority have no option other than to contribute their reasonable share. For the better off to opt out is to cheat on everyone else.
But we cannot escape the conclusion that we have become a morally corrupt society. Appeals to the better natures of the rich will fall on deaf ears. Only the politicians can restore financial justice. So God help us all!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; “Don’t be so humble. You’re not that great”…Golda Meir “Winstin Churchill would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother the louder to sing his own praises” ….David Lloyd George “More people will get out of your way if you say I am about to puke than if you say excuse me”….Sally Berger “Do not take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive”…..Elbert Hubbard “Be yourself is the worst advice you can give to many people”…..Tom Masson