Category Archives: Tax Avoidance

Arguing the wrong debate

The currency debate is a pure waste of time.

Keep Calm and Waste TimeThe SNP’s line if Scotland votes Yes has for several years been that Scotland will continue to use rUK’s pound. This is a good campaign strategy as far as it goes, since it means people don’t have to think about the logistics of setting up a Mint in Scotland to produce our own coins and a national supply of banknotes: it means people don’t have to think about changing currencies if they go to England/Wales post-independence: it means people don’t have to think about monetary change as a symbol of the huge changes of independence.

So, good campaign strategy, but it’s a completely rubbish way of deciding on a currency for Scotland post-independence.

To counter this SNP campaign strategy, the UK government/Better Together campaign have announced they will not “permit” Scotland to make use of the pound post-independence, and to counter that… but never mind. The whole thing gets indescribably messy, with both sides grandstanding more and more, and the whole thing is an utter waste of time.
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Women don’t know anything about poverty, obviously

Scottish Women's Convention manifestoThe Scottish government has appointed four well-off men to advise on poverty issues:

The members of the new expert group are: Darra Singh, a former chief executive of Jobcentre Plus now working for Ernst & Young; Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Trust and former head of Citizens Advice Scotland; Douglas Griffin, a former finance director at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde; and Mike Brewer, a professor of economics at the University of Essex and a research fellow with the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The four, who are expected to make an initial report to ministers by May, will advise on a “fairer welfare system” outside the union.

It is, after all, not the Scottish Government’s fault that Iain Duncan Smith has succeeded in associating his mantra on “fairness” with the reality of making the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the unemployed so much worse off than they need to be.
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Corruption at Christmas

If you’re a couple whose annual income is £125,000 a year after tax, even if you have five children (three more than Iain Duncan Smith will allow a low-income family, one more than he has himself), you’re richer than 95% of the UK population.

If you have the kind of money that lets you spend £125,000 on one meal, you’re one of the super-rich. In the class war, you’ve won. Ben Spalding has a victory feast for you:

Costing £125,000 for four people, or £31,250 per person, the menu for what will be the world’s most expensive Christmas dinner menu has been devised by London chef Ben Spalding, who has completed residencies at restaurants including The Fat Duck in Bray, Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital Road and Per Se in New York.

In 2011, analysts at Credit Suisse found that 29,000 people globally – nearly all of them men – own net assets worth more than $100m. As Chrystia Freeland, author of Plutocrats and former editor of the Financial Times, discovered in researching her book about the global super-rich, they are different and they are almost all men, and if they are married

these women are managing the households of their wealthy husbands – often a complex task – and pursuing philanthropic ventures. Not many are doing a job of their own despite being highly-educated themselves. In 2005, according to the book, just over a quarter of taxpayers in the top 0.1pc had a working spouse. Continue reading

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Filed under About Food, J. K. Rowling, Poverty, Restaurants, Starbucks, Tax Avoidance, Women

And Then There Were None

Latte from PrintworksI find there are 10 Starbucks coffee shops within an energetic walk of where I live. That’s quite a lot, since apparently they make not a jot out of having so many shops across the UK. Starbucks has been operating in the UK for 13 years, but apparently we’re a sadly unprofitable country, according to their CEO Howard Schultz, who says

“We don’t pay income tax because we are not making money there.”

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The BBC’s idea of a balanced panel

David Dimbleby, former Bullingdon Boy, as chair. When are they going to invite him to retire?

Four men, two women. All white. All wealthy. All but two went to private schools: all but two got a degree at Oxford.

On the left, more or less:

The Labour: Harriet Harman. Privately educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School and at the University of York back when tuition fees weren’t a consideration and maintenance grants were even enough to live on. Became a lawyer and then a Labour MP in 1982, and has been a Minister either in the Shadow Cabinet or in government since 1992. (And tried to exempt MP expenses from the Freedom of Information Act.)

The Comedian Steven Coogan. Born and brought up in Rochdale. The only person on the panel who neither went to a private school nor to Oxford University. Now reputed to have earned personal wealth of £5 million.

On the right, besides David Dimbleby:

The Conservative: Jacob Rees-Mogg. His wife Helena de Chair is the only living grandchild of Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1910 – 1948), only son of the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam: Helena’s mother inherited approximately £45m from her father on his death. Besides his wife’s wealth (they were married in 2007) Jacob Rees-Mogg is a hedge-fund manager and the son of Baron Rees-Mogg, former editor of The Times and life peer: the Baron Rees-Mogg was educated at Godalming and Balliol College, Oxford, the Hon. Jacob was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. Were either of them members of the Bullingdon Club? They’re not listed as such anywhere. His sons of course could be: the de Chair money would put them into the qualifying category if they weren’t already there.

The Sustainable Livestock Bill 2010-12 aimed

to reduce the environmental impacts of livestock production in the UK. It would also amend the way agricultural subsidies are used to make them more environmentally friendly. It includes a duty to give consideration to supporting sustainable practices and consumption through public procurement of livestock produce.

The Bill also aims to reduce rainforest deforestation by reducing the use of soya meal in animal feed in the UK. It would do this by placing a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure the sustainability of livestock, and to give consideration to issues such as public procurement and agricultural subsidy reform.

The Bill was proposed by Robert Flello, Labour MP for Stoke on Trent: Jacob Rees-Mogg killed it with a fillibuster. What a charming fellow, eh? He’s also tried to shut down a spoof Twitter account for making fun of him and once plagiarised an article from The Sun. I’m sure his nanny loves him.

The LibDem: Danny Alexander. Educated at Scottish state schools in the Highlands, and at St Anne’s College, Oxford – back in the days before tuition fees: he may even remember when students still got grants. (I wonder if he’d honestly admit that £27,000 would have been an intimidating debt for him in 1990?) Talked a good deal on Question Time about how they were making rich people pay more taxes. Slightly forgot to mention that by telling the House of Commons his London flat was his second home, he got to claim the mortgage interest and furnishings and repairs on MP expenses: then when he sold the flat in June 2007 for £300,000, he didn’t pay capital gains tax because he told the Inland Revenue that flat was his main home. Enthusiastic about cutting more and more away from supporting the poorest and most vulnerable.

[Danny Alexander] bought a flat in London in 1999. After being elected an MP in 2005, he declared the property as his second home to the parliamentary authorities and claimed expenses. He claimed more than £37,000 in expenses for the flat – and carried out some work to the property at taxpayers’ expense shortly before selling it in June 2007 for £300,000.

He did not break any rules, but used a tax loophole that allows the continued designation of a property as the main home for three years even after the purchase of another house – in Alexander’s case in Scotland – which has become the principal residence. It did not stop him from telling Commons authorities that the London property was his second home, for which he claimed not only for the mortgage but also for minor capital improvements, the Telegraph reported.

The Other Woman Because It Looks Bad To Have Only One Kirstie Allsopp. Claimed on Question Time to have gone to a state school: she actually went to ten schools, including Bedales and St Clotilde’s, neither of which are state schools. She’s the oldest child of Charles Henry Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlip, former chairman of Christie’s. When Allsopp suggested that the “Bank of Mum and Dad” should fund their children’s house purchases, she was speaking from experience:

Her parents lent her £30,000 to buy her first property in Battersea, but she lays claim to an upbringing devoid of too many frills. Both sets of grandparents managed to spend “quite considerable fortunes” before they died, so Allsopp’s parents “didn’t inherit anything and had to earn their living. They certainly didn’t have enough money to give any to us; although they helped all four of us buy flats. You put a roof over your child’s head if you can possibly afford to do so, but that is where it all stops.”

The first Baron Hindlip was a 1886 creation for Sir Henry Allsopp, head of the brewing firm of Samuel Allsopp & Sons in Staffordshire, and Tory MP. Sir Henry’s son (portrait of his wife) also became a Tory MP: his grandson was a Unionist Whip in the House of Lords: and his great-grandson, Kirstie Allsopp’s grandfather, the fifth Baron, was a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire. Kirstie Allsopp is very much part of the web of privilege.

[Update: Commenter Stubben says "@Gareth Snell, that is a picture of Hindlip Hall which has been West Mercia Police HQ since 1967, 4 years before Kirstie Allsopp was born." Swift check through Google Images says Stubben is right about this at least.]

So that’s the BBC’s idea of “balance”. Two more or less on the left – one wealthy man, one powerful woman. Three on the right: two inheritors of privilege, one grabber of privilege.

No trade union representatives: no one with even close to an average income: the only person with a working-class background was Steve Coogan, who hasn’t had to worry about the price of a pint of milk in years.

Can we see some balance, please? BBC Complaints

When are we going to see Mark Serwotka back on Question Time? Why not have a trade union representative every time? What do you reckon the chances are of Kelvin MacKenzie being invited back before any trade union leader?

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Filed under Education, In The Media, Politics, Tax Avoidance, Tuition fees

Women for Independence, Independence for Women

Women for Independence goes public with its website this week and will formally launch in September. “The group’s ultimate aim is to increase the number of Yes votes amongst women in the referendum”: autonomous and not affiliated to Yes Scotland, to correct the earlier opening to this blogpost. Yes Scotland are launching a campaign on Scottish independence targeted at women: Women for Independence. The most recent YouGov poll, conducted by the Fabian society, discovered that there is a massive gender split on independence: 39% of men, 22% of women.

The traditional Scottish male way of dealing with such dissension, as we see with Ian Davidson, is to berate the women, inform us we’re wrong, and instruct us how we should change our minds. According to a founding member of the campaign, Isobel Lindsay, the plan is

“Although most of ’s supporters are not involved in party politics, all of us in this new group believe in independence for Scotland. But we also know that women are less likely to vote yes than men in 2014. We want to change that but, first of all, we want to find out what some of the issues are so we can work with women to provide the information they want and, hopefully, persuade them that voting yes makes best sense for them and their communities’ futures.”

Carolyn Leckie says:

“I love that this group is as wide as its name and that we have very diverse reasons for supporting independence, but we all agree that independence needs to be better than the status quo for women. So this group will listen to women and bring women together to organise for our own voices to be heard centre stage, for our own independence as well as that of the nation.”

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Those empty seats

Who’s paying?

We are.

Olympic Village London 2012
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Olympics Torch: It’s a joke

Lakshmi Mittal is a torchbearer without a hometown.

Today he will be carrying the Flame through the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, selected by LOCOG as one of the 8000 inspirational people.

Lakshmi Mittal retained his crown as Britain’s richest man despite losing almost a quarter of his wealth over the past year following a fall in the share value of his ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker.

The Indian-born businessman saw his personal worth slide by £4.8 billion to £12.7 billion, but that was still enough to keep him narrowly on top of the list.

That’s inspiring, isn’t it?

This year, the fee that Lakshmi Mittal pays the British government in order to avoid paying any income tax in the UK, went up from £30,000 to £50,000. Continue reading

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GUEST BLOG: Rangers – washed up offshore

As they say, football isn’t Scotland’s national sport, it’s much more important than that. Today as Scottish Football League clubs gather at Hampden for a vote on whether New Rangers should play First Division or Third next season, Brian Smith (@Einveldi on Twitter), a Glaswegian now living in Edinburgh, blogs here about the pay, taxes, and corruption off the pitch.

Taken at face value, the business case for a successful Rangers F.C. is compelling. 46,000 punters paying between £23 and £42 for a ticket 20 or more times a season. The lion’s share of a £16m-per-year television contract. A place in the lucrative Champions League almost guaranteed due to lack of domestic competitiveness. Sponsorship deals. Manufacturing deals. Replica kit sales. Lunchboxes, bedspreads and alarm clocks bearing the Rangers logo.

Rangers FC beanie bear Rangers FC lunchbox Rangers FC duvet set Rangers FC alarm clock

All of these figures seem impressive but all pale in comparison to the expansion of finances in the English Premier League.

Against a vastly more successful set-up down south (complete with oligarchs and sheikhs propping them up) Rangers tried and struggled to keep up. In order to keep their most talented players, Rangers resorted to paying them English Premiership-type wages.

The finer details of footballers’ contracts are tricky to obtain or decipher but the notoriously detailed fan-researched Football Manager games by Sports Interactive (SI) suggest that even in 2009, when Rangers’ financial situation was becoming increasingly precarious, it was paying at least three members of its playing squad in excess of £25,000 a week.

You have to stop and think about just how much money that is. £25,000 a week is £1.3 million per year, pre-tax. Continue reading

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Darling, what about those MP expenses claims?

That the Better Together campaign was launched the same day David Cameron announced a new anti-welfare policy, is not their fault: Cameron was simply not concerned about how this would play in Scotland.

That Alastair Darling is the Labour lead is… a plan so cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel?

Before September 2005, Alastair Darling rented a room in a flat owned by a Labour peer, Lewis Moonie. This was his main home. His home in Edinburgh was his second home, though he has been an elected representative in Edinburgh since 1982 when he won a seat on Lothian Regional Council. That meant he could claim £1145 per month towards his Edinburgh mortgage, plus £284 towards his council tax, plus £300 a month for food.

In September 2005, Alastair Darling

told the fees office that Edinburgh was now his first home and transferred his “second home” allowance to London. He bought a flat near the Oval cricket ground for £226,000.

Taxpayers paid the stamp duty of £2,260 and a further £1,238 for legal fees. In his first month at the Oval flat, Mr Darling claimed £2,074 for furniture, including £765 from Ikea and a £768 bed from Marks and Spencer. Carpeting the flat in “magnolia” cost the public finances a further £2,339.

He attempted to claim a hotel bill while the flat was being renovated. However, the fees office refused to pay the £146 bill in September, because he was claiming his “second home” was in London.
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