Thursday 28 April 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Legal aid cuts have led to surge in DIY defence, wasting time and costing more
A new report, Justice Denied, suggests that a combination of legal aid cuts, complex bureaucracy and inadequate support and information for defendants have led to a surge in people appearing in court without a lawyer. In one example given to the charity behind the report, Transform Justice, an unrepresented defendant remained silent during his appearance via video link from a police station. Only after he had been sent to prison did it emerge that he was deaf. According to the Magistrates Association survey, its members reported that 25% of defendants who came before them in 2014 were unrepresented. Of 143 responses, drawn largely from members of the legal profession, to a Transform Justice poll, 90% felt there had been an increase in unrepresented defendants in the courts over the last two years. Judges interviewed for the report agreed that unrepresented defendants considerably increased the time needed for hearings. Mark Fenhalls QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “There is increasing evidence from civil and criminal courts that restricting legal aid is counter-productive and has made the court system less efficient and more expensive. An unrepresented defendant in a criminal trial is like having an unqualified person performing surgery. The patient, our justice system, is bound to suffer and in the long run society will spend more money picking up the pieces.” GUARDIAN

TTIP secret courts: Unpublished UK Government report concluded it has 'lots of risk and no benefit'
The warning was disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information request by anti-TTIP campaigners Global Justice Now. Supporters of TTIP say it could boost the European and US economies by hundreds of billions of dollars by making it easier for companies on either side of the Atlantic to trade with one another. Opponents say the deal could give corporations the power to sue governments when they pass regulation that could hit firms' profits through these secret courts of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). United Nations figures show US companies have made billions of dollars by suing other governments nearly 130 times in the past 15 years under similar free-trade agreements. Details of the cases are often secret, but notorious precedents include tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Australia and Uruguay for putting health warnings on cigarette packets. "Ultimately, we conclude that an EU-US investment treaty that does contain ISDS is likely to have few or no benefits to the UK, while having meaningful economic and political costs," the report said. INDEPENDENT

Graduates paid 9% less than in 2006, say government figures
The latest official statistics show that the long ice age of wage stagnation is grinding on - and that graduate earnings have been in a deep freeze stretching back for the past decade. Graduates earn more on average than non-graduates and are much less likely to be unemployed. Postgraduates earn even more and those with higher grades of degrees are paid more than those with lower. But the big backdrop - so big that it's sometimes not seen - is the long-term flatlining in earnings. The latest graduate earnings figures track median salaries back to 2006. There was a slight upwards nudge between 2006 and 2008, for young and older graduates - and since then barely a flicker. What is really tough about these figures is that they are not real-terms numbers, taking into account inflation. These are salaries in cash terms. A young graduate in 2008 was typically earning about £24,000 and in 2015 a young graduate was still typically earning £24,000. Apart from the rising costs of bills and underlying inflation, think about the other extra factors hitting graduate finances. They will have £27,000 in tuition fee debt, not to mention sky-rocketing rent and property prices. More money is going out, without any more going in. Across the whole graduate population, there has been a similar glacial freeze in earnings. The typical salary of graduates in 2015 was £31,500, about £500 more than six years earlier. The Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics has described this stagnation in earnings as unlike anything since the 1920s - with an estimated 9% real-terms drop in average earnings since the recession. This pay-rise drought stretches across the last years of the Labour administration and through the coalition and into the current government. The figures also reveal something of a qualifications arms race. Those with postgraduate degrees have the kind of benefits that once accrued to those with first degrees. They are likely to earn considerably more than either graduates or non-graduates and can be very confident of entering high-skilled careers. BBC NEWS

Boardroom pay system is not fit for purpose, says top investor group
The system for setting boardroom pay at the biggest companies on the London stock market is not fit for purpose and needs to be overhauled, according to an analysis for the Investment Association, a leading group of shareholders and companies. The review – chaired by Nigel Wilson, the chief executive of Legal & General – comes after executive pay has tripled over the past 18 years, a period in which the level of the FTSE 100 has barely changed. There is also an increasing disparity between executive pay and that of ordinary staff. The committee that led the review also included the chairman of Sainsbury’s, David Tyler, and Helena Morrissey, who chairs the association and runs Newton Investment Management. The report says: “Failure has sometimes been rewarded, and use of median comparators has driven disproportionate rises in executive remuneration. This is ultimately damaging to the listed company sector. At the same time, boards have sometimes outsourced remuneration to consultants, reducing accountability and creating unwanted outcomes.” GUARDIAN

Secret offshore owners of UK property may be forced into spotlight
Offshore companies buying UK property could be forced to reveal their ultimate owners under plans being considered by ministers to crack down on tax evasion and money laundering. The proposals would shine a spotlight on the foreign firms that hold billions of pounds in British property without having to declare who is behind them. It could also require foreign companies bidding for public sector contracts to do the same. David Cameron is already forcing all UK companies to reveal their ultimate owners under the new plans for a register of beneficial ownership from June, so the plans would bring foreign owners of British property into line with those rules. It comes after the Guardian and other global media organisations published the leaked Panama Papers from law firm Mossack Fonseca revealing how some of the world’s wealthy and powerful used offshore companies to hide their assets. The consultation document, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “Property can provide a convenient vehicle for hiding the proceeds of crime. A recent study found that a quarter of solicitors’ firms surveyed had experienced clients attempting to use property transactions to launder money or commit fraud. GUARDIAN

How Philip Green's family made millions as value of BHS plummeted
When Sir Philip Green bought BHS in May 2000, he insisted it would not be rocket science to revive the ailing high street retailer. After paying £200m, he was convinced he had the skills to secure its future and make it the foundation of a sprawling retail empire. But last year, after failing in his mission, Green sold BHS for £1 to a little known group of investors who have steered it into collapse in just over 12 months. His dreams for the chain may have come to nothing, but Green’s family have still been big winners from BHS, taking out more than £580m in dividends, rental payments and interest on loans to help fund a lavish lifestyle. As the pensions regulator considers whether to pursue Green for between £200m and £300m – to help fill the black hole in BHS’s pension schemes that had developed since 2000 – he is awaiting delivery of his latest toy: a $150m (£100m) superyacht named Lionheart. The 90-metre vessel will join Green’s two other yachts, speedboat, helicopter and Gulfstream jet, which comes in handy for his weekly trips to and from Monaco to visit his family. Green and his wife Tina were listed as the UK’s 29th richest family in last weekend’s Sunday Times rich list, which estimated their worth as £3.22bn. That total excludes the £280m which researchers suggested Greens might have to hand over to the pensions regulator. Tina, who since 2004 has been the legal owner of BHS – and the Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins – is based in Monaco. The handover of BHS to Green’s wife was completed just before the family paid themselves £1.2bn in dividends from Arcadia in 2005, the biggest pay cheque in British corporate history, equivalent to four times the group’s then profits. GUARDIAN

London skyscraper rents rising faster than the rest of the world
The upmarket estate agent Knight Frank said the cost of renting in office towers such as the Shard, Walkie Talkie and Cheesegrater rose 9.7% to $126 (£87.50) per square foot in the second half of 2015 from the previous six months and by 21.4% from a year earlier. London rents rose twice as fast as those in San Francisco, at 4.76%, and three times quicker than in Hong Kong and Mumbai, where rents went up by 3%. The 21-city skyscraper index compared the rental performance of commercial buildings of more than 30 storeys across the world against the first half of 2015. The UK capital also topped the table between January and June 2015, with an 11% rise in rents. The skyscraper index shows that Hong Kong remains the most expensive place to rent in the world – the average rent is more than twice as high as in London, at $263.25 per sq ft per year. New York remains in second place at $155, followed by Tokyo at $128.75 and London at $126. Until about 10 years ago, there were few skyscrapers in London. Between the NatWest tower in 1979 and the Gherkin in 2003, not a single one was built in the City. But now there are 436 buildings above 20 storeys in the pipeline across London. The high-rise boom has provoked controversy over its impact on the skyline, while residents and businesses are concerned about wind tunnels and a lack of light. Bruce Dear, the head of London real estate at Eversheds, said: “There is a floating city above London in the Canary Wharf and City tower clusters. Space in these towers is scarce and high status, like high-rise white truffles. So the towers rental market obeys different laws to the rents of ground dwellers. Ultimately, scarcity is allowing these towers to defy the slowing global economy.” GUARDIAN

Asda shamed by UK competition authority over promotions - but watchdog admits it cannot ban dodgy special offers
In a bid to stamp out 'confusing and misleading' special offers, Asda has agreed to stop advertising 'now' prices for longer than the 'was' price was applied and ensure multi-buy offers represent better value than a single product before the offer. But while this may seem like progress, the Competition & Markets Authority stressed it 'has no intention (nor is it empowered) to "ban" particular types of special offers, such as multi-buy promotions'. The CMA’s response follows a 'super complaint' lodged by consumer group Which? in April last year, accusing supermarkets of using 'misleading' pricing tactics, including confusing multi-buy offers and shrinking pack sizes without any corresponding price reductions. The CMA reported last July that it had found that supermarkets were misleading customers with confusing pricing promotions that could be against the law. Examples include: Hovis Medium Sliced Soft White Bread (800g), which was sold at “£1 (was £1.20)” even though the price before the offer started was £1, and the product had not been sold at £1.20 for 116 days; Asda increased the regular price of Uncle Ben's rice from £1 to £1.58 as it went onto a '2 for £3' multi-buy, then returned it to £1 when the multi-buy ended - making it 50p more expensive per pack (2013); Online grocer Ocado increased the price of Waitrose blueberries to £3.99 for a week, before selling them on offer at £2.66 for over a month (2013); Tesco sold Flash All Purpose Cleaning Spray on offer for £1 for 47 days but it had only been at the higher price of £2 for 17 days (2013). Which? found that around 40 per cent of groceries in the UK are sold on promotion. DAILY MAIL

Friday 22 April 2016

Chris and KJ work themselves up over the EU referendum...


Election 2015: more voters swung left than right. It was the constituency boundaries wot won it!

Osborne's 2016 budget protects the wealthiest while the most vulnerable suffer

Department of Health consultation embarrassingly shows public strongly against Tory plans for NHS

Our NHS is expensive? Comparable countries' public/private mix costs them even more

The poorest 10% get 18 fewer years of health than the top 10%, and 9 fewer years of life

NHS budget is protected? Not per head, which is what counts. Our growing and ageing population means it's a £5bn/year cut

Cuts to the NHS, Military, the Courts, Prisons, Benefits, Passports... Will fixing the chaos end up costing more than the cuts saved?

Liebrary: PFI saves us virtually nothing, if you believe the NAO’s figures. If you believe the Commons Treasury Committee, it costs us a vast amount that nobody has yet quantified

Thursday 21 April 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Tory MPs queue up to batter their own government's forced academies plan
A dozen rebels turned publicly on David Cameron for forcing all schools to become academies by 2020. It made an embarrassing spectacle in the House of Commons - where Tory MPs joined a Labour campaign against the "rushed" and "flawed" plan. The Prime Minister still won the day after nearly 300 of his MPs blocked Labour's bid to put the scheme on hold. But it was not before he was humiliated by his own backbenchers, who raised worry after worry about the plan. The government announced the plan last month , completing the loss of council control over schools which began under Labour and was expanded massively under the Tories. Tory MP Stewart Jackson kicked off the row by warning the plan by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was "rushed, ill-thought out and flawed". Colchester MP Will Quince, whose wife is a primary school teacher, fumed: "There is no evidence that academies are somehow automatically better than state-maintained schools... Call me old-fashioned but I hold the view that if you've got a well-governed, well-run school that's performing well, just leave it alone and let it do its job." Newbury MP Richard Benyon questioned how small, rural primary schools would have the resources to make the change. South Suffolk Tory James Cartlidge said he had visited a local primary school which was "outstanding in every sense of the word" and did not want to become an academy. South Dorset MP Richard Drax said the "one cap fits all" theory "always makes me nervous". Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said: "I'm a Conservative because I believe in choice. We should put our trust in parents and governing bodies." MIRROR

Osborne warns firms not to cut perks on back of National Living Wage: John Lewis, Tesco, B&Q, Caffe Nero etc.
Many firms have cut overtime pay rates or benefits such as free lunches to fund the rise in basic pay rates. But companies which cut staff perks to compensate for the higher cost of the new minimum wage should be mindful of the risk to their reputation, chancellor George Osborne has warned. "It's not the spirit of the law. Companies should be much more careful about their reputation," he told ITV. The £7.20 hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over came into effect in April. Mr Osborne's warning comes after a debate in the Commons on Monday on the impact of the 50p hourly increase in the National Living Wage (NLW), said profitable firms trying to "evade the spirit" of the new laws would face government pressure. A motion warning the wage changes have left thousands of low-paid workers "significantly worse off" and calling on the government to ensure they are protected was passed unopposed. DIY chain B&Q, supermarket Tesco, coffee chain Caffe Nero and the John Lewis Partnership have all recently reduced some staff payments or perks, but most have said the moves were unrelated to the 50p-an-hour increase in the National Living Wage (NLW). In April, Caffe Nero said it would no longer give its staff a free lunch when they are on shift, as part of a "pay review" introduced in response to the new National Living Wage. The John Lewis Partnership - which includes supermarket chain Waitrose - said it stopped so-called premium payments - higher hourly rates for overtime or Sunday working - from 1 February for new workers after realising competitors did not offer the same deal. "Premium payments are not a feature of the market," a spokeswoman for the group told the BBC. She said the decision was announced in September last year and was unrelated to the introduction of the NLW. She also said Waitrose average hourly pay rate, outside London, was above the NLW at £7.80. BBC NEWS

Plans to stop collecting data on wealthiest 1% in UK is criticised by IFS
Proposals by the UK government to stop collecting information showing how the wealthy pass on their assets from one generation to another have been condemned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a leading tax and spending thinktank. The IFS said Britain was in danger of allowing a misleading picture to emerge of its richest families. The change would underestimate the wealth of the top 1%, whose wealth is at least £1.4m including the value of their home. The IFS said calculations that failed to include the often complex web of trusts and jointly owned properties that the richest families use to avoid capital gains and inheritance tax would depress the overall measure of wealth. It said that in 2005 the under-recording and differences in valuation of inherited estates increased the total from £3.4n to £4tn. The inclusion of family trusts, jointly owned properties and small properties, which the IFS said were excluded from the standard published data, raised the total to £5tn – 46% higher than the total initially identified by officials. A special issue of the IFS journal Fiscal Studies argues that the accumulation of wealth by the top 1% has meant the “younger generations are on course to have less wealth at each point in life than earlier generations”. Adding to a welter of analysis that points to wealth – rather than incomes – providing the biggest split in society, it said inheritances will do little to even out the spread of wealth, leaving younger people from poorer families unable to acquire assets already in the hands of the top 1%. GUARDIAN

Anti-austerity protest: Tens of thousands march in central London against Government cuts
The 50,000 strong march began near to the University of Central London and weaved its way through the streets for a rally in Trafalgar Square. Slogans such as “Cameron Must Go - Tories Out!” and demands for decent health, homes, jobs and education were brandished in the protest organised by the People's Assembly. Kicking off the demo, the National Health Singers sang a song, which included lines of "don't let our junior docs be worked around the clock", and "help us keep you safe, don't take our rights away". Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, NUT general secretary Christine Blower and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also joined the demonstration. Gary Manning, 42, from Carmarthenshire, donned a pig mask for the march, saying he wore it because it represents the elitism of people like George Osborne and David Cameron. His 13-year-old daughter Catrin, who chose to accompany to him to the march, said: "I'm here because the Tories are raising tax and I don't think it is fair when all the British people have to pay and the rich don't." More than 100 coaches filled with demonstrators arrived in the capital from around the UK - with thousands of others attending through their associated unions or groups. EVENING STANDARD

Parents face 10,000 shortfall in primary places in the next four years
Last year, one in five students missed out on their chosen school, and new figures show that by 2019-2020, there will be more pupils than places in the south east, the north and the midlands. The Department for Education claims that free schools - independent institutions that were introduced under the Coalition - will make up the numbers, and denies there is any shortfall. The official number of places needed was confirmed by the Department for Education, but Labour accused the Government of covering up the true extent of the crisis, suggesting the shortfall may be as high as 85,000. Local authorities have a duty to provide school places, but the Government's plan to force all schools to become academies - independent from council control - makes the job all the more challenging. And critics claim that many of the free schools planned are not in the areas of most need. The data shows that Bexley, Greenwich, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton and Slough in the south east, Bolton, Manchester, Oldham and Leeds in the north, and Leicester, Birmingham and Walsall in the Midlands, face the biggest shortfalls. DAILY MAIL

Scottish Power warranty was a £75m fraud, say MPs
A Scottish Power warranty scheme that allegedly failed to pay out £75m to hundreds of thousands of customers was "effectively a fraud on the public", according to a report by MPs. The PowerPlan  offer sold to 625,000 people across the UK was "neither financially capable of functioning, nor designed to deliver", the cross-party group said. Customers who bought white goods up to the early 2000s were promised a refund if they didn't claim within five years. Many customers were left without refunds after the stores and ScottishPower's insurance arm, Domestic Appliance Insurance Limited, were sold to Powerhouse, which subsequently went into administration. The MPs are now calling for a formal Select Committee hearing "so that ScottishPower executives can be called to account for their actions before Parliament, opening the way to achieving some form of justice, including compensation, for those consumers who are affected". The APPG chairman Andrew Percy said: "We have been shocked by the complete lack of uptake by regulators and authorities to date, and I expect this report to make them sit up and take notice”. Scottish Power denies any wrongdoing. BBC NEWS

Incredible shrinking toilet paper: Which? names six products that quietly got smaller, while you paid more
according to research from consumer group Which? you now get 30g less of McVitie's dark chocolate digestives, but pay ten pence more at Tesco. Tropicana drinks are 15 per cent less full if you're buying its Pure Premiums orange and raspberry juice, which shrank from one litre to 850ml, but remained the same price in Asda. Those handy Dettol cleaning wipes come with four fewer per pack if you're buying the Power and Pure Bathroom ones. At Tesco you'll still pay the same, and at Ocado, three pence more though. The amount of Sensodyne's Total Care Extra Fresh you get in the tube shrank by a quarter. The pre-cut price was £3.60, but was then £3.49, increasing the price per 100ml. Fans of Percol's fairtrade Guatemalan coffee get 27g less, and while the price went down in Sainsbury's and Waitrose, it was not enough to reflect the cut and per 100g, it's now more expensive. And finally, don't be distracted by that cute Andrex puppy. A standard four pack now has 19 fewer sheets, but has remained at around the £2 mark. Meanwhile, if you like your toilet paper to have picture of puppies printed right on there, Andrex's "Puppies and Roll" has lost 31 sheets in the last decade. “Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of increasing prices. We want manufacturers and supermarkets to be upfront about shrinking products so consumers aren’t misled," said Which? editor Richard Headland. The group contacted the brands, which said it was down to the supermarkets to set prices, but they did not disclose if there were a change to wholesale prices. CITY AM

HMRC still not doing enough to tackle tax fraud, say MPs
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said taxpayers were missing out on £16bn a year, as a result of evasion and criminal activity. HMRC needed to increase the number of investigations, and prosecute more wealthy tax evaders. HMRC revealed it had 26,000 staff focusing on tax evasion, avoidance and fraud, out of its total staff of 56,000. But it told the MPs that it did not know how many had been successfully prosecuted. In addition, only one person was prosecuted after a former HSBC employee called Herve Falciani leaked a list of potential tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts in 2015. The MPs said that created the impression that the rich can get away with tax fraud. HMRC's estimate of the tax gap breaks down into £26bn not paid by businesses large and small, £6bn attributable to criminals, many operating in the black economy, and just under £3bn which individuals should have stumped up. That explains why only a small proportion of the 26,000 specialist investigators are assigned to chasing individuals: HMRC said it investigates around 35 wealthy individuals for tax evasion each year. HMRC now names and shames deliberate tax defaulters by publishing a regular list of offenders. But look at the characters on the list and you will see that they are small business people including restaurant owners, fishermen, newsagents and car traders, not the sort who have Swiss bank accounts. Critics say that while this approach might be convenient for HMRC, it sends out entirely the wrong message, that they are keener to nab the small fry than to home in on the rich who might wriggle out of tax. As a result of extra funding given to it in the Summer 2015 budget, HMRC said it now hoped to investigate 100 companies and wealthy individuals each year by 2020. BBC NEWS

Mitsubishi admits falsifying vehicle emissions data
Mitsubishi Motors admitted it had falsified fuel economy test data to make emissions levels look more favourable, sending shares in the Japanese car company tumbling more than 15pc, wiping $1.2bn from its market value. Tetsuro Aikawa, president of Japan's sixth-largest automaker by market value, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi since a defect cover-up over a decade ago. The problem was reportedly found after its customer Nissan pointed out inconsistencies in data. "The wrongdoing was intentional. It is clear the falsification was done to make the mileage look better. But why they would resort to fraud to do this is still unclear," Mr Aikawa said. He said that although he was unaware the irregularities were happening, "I feel responsible". In 2000, Mitsubishi revealed that it covered up safety records and customer complaints. Four years later it admitted to broader problems going back decades. Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said: "We've always thought that the VW emissions scandal would rumble on and now it looks like the dodginess is not confined to the German carmaker." South Korean car makers Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp in 2014 agreed to pay $350m in penalties to the US government for overstating their vehicles' fuel economy ratings. They also resolved claims from car owners. TELEGRAPH

US launches criminal investigation into Panama Papers claims
The “crusading” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, has launched a criminal investigation into possible international tax avoidance that may have been revealed by the Panama Papers leak. The launch of the criminal investigation comes after President Barack Obama described global tax avoidance as a huge problem, adding: “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.” Any tax avoiders who have Mr Bharara on their tail are also likely to find him an extremely dogged opponent.  Since becoming the US attorney for Manhattan in 2009, he has charged at least 96 Wall Street executives with offences connected to insider trading.  By the end of last year, the New York Post was referring to him as “crusading” and claiming he had engaged in a “six-year battle against Wall Street.” In 2011 he warned Wall Street that none of its largest firms were "too big to prosecute", and he has certainly shown little fear of confronting banking giants like Citibank, which in 2012 paid $158 million (£110 million) to settle claims its mortgage unit fraudulently misled the government into insuring risky loans. INDEPENDENT

Monday 18 April 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , , ,

In April 2016 the "Panama Papers", a vast document leak revealing offshore tax dodging, reminded us how extremely helpful British law is to the very wealthy around the world

However, one of the biggest and most exclusive UK tax loopholes of all isn't hidden offshore. It is here in plain sight right in front of you in good old Blighty, and it relates to Inheritance Tax (IHT).

We don't refer to the widely known IHT free bequests from one spouse to another. Though that perhaps opens up a loophole for the most determined IHT avoiders whatever their wealth.

We refer to a loophole available to all, but accessible only to the most wealthy. Jesus Christ apparently said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." At least the heirs of rich men and women can console themselves that you really need camel-sized assets to go through this particular British tax loophole. The loophole being the Inheritance Tax "7 year rule", whereby you pay no Inheritance Tax if :
  • You give away assets (property, cash, shares, polo ponies, etc.) 
  • AND you take no further benefit from them (e.g. you can't give away a house and continue to live in it, or collect interest from gifted cash, or use the manure from the pony on your roses), 
  • AND you live for at least seven years after the gift

Before 18th March 1986 it was so much easier. You could hand your wealth to your heirs before you drop dead, trust them to look after you, and escape inheritance tax. For instance, gifting your home: while your home would legally belong to your kids you could still live in it, and so long as you survived 7 years there would be no inheritance tax on it. 

The only risk you took was that the new owners of your property – your kids – would throw you out on the streets. In the words of Roy Jenkins, a former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Inheritance Tax was “a voluntary levy paid by those who distrust their heirs more than they dislike the Inland Revenue.” 

From 18th March 1986, for the transfer to escape inheritance tax you would have to obey the "7 year rule". The economics of comfortable living and death duties are merciless. If you are moderately wealthy, with assets of £1.5 million, consisting of a £750k home plus £750k other assets (cash, equity, buy-to-let, and the like) providing an income of £30k per annum, then you probably need to keep these assets until you die to provide a place to live in and money to live on. When you die, because you were unable to give away your assets, a large proportion of your wealth will go as inheritance tax.  

However, if you have assets of £10million, then the bulk of this wealth is not required for your ‘subsistence’ in old age. Holding on to your home and keeping enough to generate a reasonable income, you could safely ‘give away’ £8 million to your heirs, potentially avoiding IHT completely on that wealth. If you are fearfully wealthy – the following table, for a single person dying in 2015/16 speaks for itself:

In the above examples, the Moderately Wealthy individual, without surplus assets to give away, pays 31% of their wealth in IHT. The Significantly and the Fearfully Wealthy individuals pay 7% and 4% in IHT respectively.

An example of how the exceedingly wealthy navigate their way around IHT is given in a book, "The British Tax System", by John Kay (academic, author, and FT columnist) and Mervyn King (formerly governor of the Bank of England):

“It is clear that individuals who are obviously far from being paupers may die leaving estates for tax purposes that bear little relation to their real wealth. 

It is generally believed that the largest sum ever paid in death duties, by a considerable margin, was the £11 million paid on an estate estimated at between £40 million and £60 million on the death of the third Duke of Westminster in 1953. 

On the subsequent death of the fourth Duke, his reported estate was a little over £4 million, on which estate duty came to around £1 million. In fact not even this sum was paid, since after a protracted legal case it was resolved that the Duke (who was partially disabled by war wounds received in 1942 and who died of cancer 1967) was entitled to the benefit of an exemption from estate duty for those killed on active military service. 

The fifth Duke died in 1979, and press reports then estimated that the family fortune controlled by the new Duke of Westminster was between £300 million and £800 million. Again the reported estate was expected to be less than £5 million (Daily Telegraph, 20 February 1979).”

Evidently loopholes will be opened when the need arises. The fourth Duke of Westminster was wounded in 1944, and died of cancer 23 years later. His executor seems to have successfully argued, for the purposes of Inheritance Tax, that the Duke was deemed to have been killed on active service. 

David Cameron's father Ian was a significantly wealthy individual. According to the Sunday Times Rich List Ian Cameron had an estimated £10 million in assets in 2009. Following his death in 2010, his Probate showed UK assets of £2.9 million (N.B. the Grant of Probate doesn't reveal offshore assets). According to a report by the Guardian newspaper, some years earlier Ian Cameron had gifted properties in Berkshire and in Kensington to his children (not including David, who received £300,000 in Ian Cameron's will plus a further gift of £200,000 from his mother a year later).

Even for the very wealthy things aren't as simple as that. One finds oneself playing a game of Chicken with the Grim Reaper (a.k.a. the taxman), trying to guess when one has just over seven years left. After all, one wants to be in full control of one's assets as long as one can. According to Office for National Statistics data for 2014, about 10% of people lived beyond 84 years. If you want a 50-50 chance of giving away your stuff in time to avoid IHT, perhaps consider handing it over by your 73rd birthday. On the other hand, there is a fair probability you would spend more than a decade without your stamp collection and granny's Renoir.

The statistics provide a pretty good idea, but not really enough to be quite sure.

Of course, if a benefactor's estate is big enough then it may become cost effective for the heirs to keep him or her on life support, or at least well hidden and plausibly fresh, until the requisite seven years is up.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

SOURCE MIRROR: David Cameron blasted over £400m cut to tax collectors in furious Prime Minister's Questions clash
Jeremy Corbyn has blasted a £400million cut to the government's tax collection department in his first clash over the Panama Papers at Prime Minister's Questions. The Labour leader accused David Cameron of letting down the nation by cutting the HM Revenue and Customs budget from £3.3bn to £2.9bn by 2020. "Why has he laid off so many staff in HMRC who therefore can't go and collect tax?" said Corbyn. This week David Cameron announced UK law enforcement will be able to find out the beneficiaries of firms in all tax havens except Anguila and Guernsey, which hadn't yet agreed to a deal.


Thursday, April 14, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
£28 health checks: Boots staff under management pressure to milk the NHS for cash
Managers at Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain were found to be directing their chemists to provide medicine-use reviews (MUR) to customers who didn’t need them, in order to claim public money from the NHS. The NHS pays £28 for each MUR, which is carried out by a pharmacist and intended to give patients professional advice on health, diet and how best to manage their medicines. However, an investigation by the Guardian has found evidence that Boots managers are directing staff to carry out MURs on each other and on patients who don’t need them or can’t use them. To prevent any milking of the MUR system, the NHS limits each pharmacy to a maximum of 400. The Guardian has found evidence that Boots staff are being told to take that number as a target for individual stores to hit. An email from a senior manager for another region states: “I personally don’t want colleagues to feel ‘brow-beaten’ but we do need to deliver our targets of 400 MCUs [medicine check-ups – another name for MURs] per store this financial year for two reasons: Delivering 400 MCUs is a measure of Excellent Patient Care; The company can make £28 profit for each MCU, so each one we don’t deliver is a lost £28.” If a pharmacy carries out the maximum 400 MURs, it will earn £11,200. Assuming each Boots pharmacy churns out 400 MURs a year, that one NHS programme is worth an annual £30m to the company. Although it has tweaked the criteria for MURs, the cash-strapped NHS has no plans to scrap the system, claiming “they help relieve the pressure on GPs and accident and emergency departments, ensure optimal use of medicines, better value and better patient outcomes, and contribute to delivering seven-day health and care services”. GUARDIAN

Living standards fell in 2015, revised ONS figures show
Reviewing its figures, the ONS said that a previously announced 2.5% rise in real, inflation-adjusted incomes in 2015 - the biggest increase since 2001 - had been the result of estimates of the non-cash benefits households receive from being owner occupiers, like “imputed rentals”. Imputed rentals represent the value of housing services that owner occupiers derive from their homes, equal to the amount that they would have to pay in rent to achieve the same consumption of housing services. The ONS said: “Whilst this concept is important when measuring economic output, it is not expenditure directly observed by home owners.” Stripped of these so-called imputed rents and other elements that households would not recognise as income, the ONS said real living standards fell by 0.2% in 2015, following a 0.7% decline in 2014. This alternative method for calculating household incomes shows a more modest recovery since the deep slump of 2008-09. The ONS said living standards were 2.8% higher than their pre-recession peak in the first quarter of 2008, when inputed rents were included, but only 2.1% higher on a cash basis. The ONS’s chief economist, Joe Grice, said: “These new estimates help to tell the story of changing household incomes in a way which is closer to the actual experiences of households. “While the headline figures, containing imputed elements, are important for giving a coherent picture of the economy, these new figures shed light on how household incomes are changing in cash terms.” GUARDIAN

DWP fines “striving” low-paid full-time workers under trial of new benefits rule
The fines, part of a new and little-known “in-work conditionality” programme, were introduced by the then work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. By May, in-work conditionality will have been imposed on 15,000 low-paid workers in a handful of trial areas across the UK. An evaluation of the trials is due in 2018. If UC rolls out as planned it is expected that around 1 million workers, many of them currently on tax credits, will be covered by the new regime by 2020. Helen Smith was docked £220 for missing a jobcentre appointment because she took a family holiday. The trip to Spain was booked before she was moved on to universal credit in 2015. Although she says she explained to officials why she could not make the meeting, the fine was still imposed. Smith, 36, of Widnes, says she has been in almost continuous employment since she left school. In another case, a UC claimant said he was fined £70 after his work shift meant he arrived late at a jobcentre appointment. Ministers have been widely criticised for imposing strict sanctions on people claiming unemployment benefit, dishing out millions of often arbitrary financial penalties in recent years for apparent breaches of jobcentre rules, despite there being no clear evidence that the fines helped those affected to get a job. Now similar penalties are being extended to thousands of people in work and in receipt of universal credit (UC). Experts have warned that the initiative risks blurring the government’s attempt to draw a clear political dividing line between so-called “hard-working families” and those caricatured as out-of-work “scroungers”, because it extends the negative connotations of welfare dependency to those who have a job. Anecdotal evidence is emerging from trials of the scheme that working claimants are angry at being subjected to tight jobcentre surveillance and sanctions. Some question the value of the job support provided and say sanctions are unfair because they have proved they are already motivated enough to work. GUARDIAN

London first time house buyers 'will need a £106,000 salary by 2020'
Homeless charity Shelter says the average deposit needed for a home in the capital will rise to an astonishing £138,000 over the next four years in order to keep pace with rocketing property prices. Their salary estimate is an increase of more than a quarter on current figures, which show Londoners need to make an average of £80,000 to get on the housing ladder. Shelter's research is based on current figures showing London house prices for first time buyers have risen six times faster than wages over the last five years, with Westminster having one of the biggest disparities. The price of the average home in the borough has grown by 67 per cent, while its residents’ average wages have actually fallen by 7 per cent to £42,798, their figures show. Boroughs including Lambeth, Greenwich, Newham and Merton have also seen house price increases massively outstrip their 1 per cent wage rises. Overall, house prices are increasing fifteen times faster than the average wage. Shelter's chief executive Campbell Robb said: “With the situation only set to get worse, Generation Rent will be forced to resign themselves to a life in expensive, unstable private renting, and wave goodbye to their dreams of a home to put down roots in. It doesn’t have to be like this. The next Mayor of London has the power to turn our housing crisis around, and with only weeks before Londoners go to the polling booth, the candidates must commit to investing in homes that people on ordinary incomes can actually afford and making renting more secure.” EVENING STANDARD

Panama Papers tax leak: EU to make big firms come clean on tax
Plans to force the largest companies to disclose more about their tax affairs have been unveiled by the European Union. The rules will affect multinational firms with more than €750m in sales. They will have to detail how much tax they pay in which EU countries as well as any activities carried out in specific tax havens. The plans come amid heightened scrutiny of the use of tax havens following the Panama Papers revelations. Country-by-country reporting rules already apply to banks, mining and forestry companies, according to an EU spokesperson. Under the new proposals, that would be expanded to cover companies accounting for about 90% of corporate revenues in the EU, they added. This proposal is bound to be controversial. The Commission's plan would oblige companies to report what they earn and how much tax they pay in EU countries. But it would also force them to reveal details of their tax affairs in "third countries which do not respect international tax good governance standards". In other words, secretive tax havens. BBC NEWS

BP shareholders reject chief Bob Dudley's £14m pay deal. But he can just ignore it
Just over 59% of investors rejected Mr Dudley's 20% increase, one of the largest rejections to date of a corporate pay deal in the UK. The vote is non-binding on BP, but earlier, chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg promised to review future pay terms. Mr Dudley received the rise despite BP's falling profits and job cuts. Corporate governance adviser Manifest estimated that it would be at least the fifth-largest vote in the UK against a boardroom remuneration deal. The Institute of Directors said: "British boards are now in the last chance saloon. If the will of shareholders in cases like this is ignored, it will only be a matter of time before the government introduces tougher regulations on executive pay." Shareholders that criticised the pay deals included Aberdeen Asset Management and Royal London Asset Management. Investor group Sharesoc branded the pay deal "simply too high", while Glass Lewis, ShareSoc, Pirc and Institutional Shareholder Services have also expressed their opposition. Earlier on Thursday, Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London, told the BBC: "The executives received the maximum bonuses possible in a year when [BP] made a record loss, and to us that just does not translate into very good decision-making by the board... We think it sends the wrong message. It shows that the board is out of touch." Bosses at the US oil firms Exxon and Chevron got paid even more than Bob Dudley even though the value of their companies fell by more than BP. Many experts argue that Mr Dudley is merely earning the market rate for international executives. BBC NEWS

Executive pay up almost 6% according to thinktank analysis
Britain’s top bosses have continued to enjoy generous pay rises despite greater scrutiny of executive rewards, according to the latest data from the High Pay Centre. FTSE 100 companies that have reported pay deals so far this year have given their chief executives an aggregate 6% rise, figures from the thinktank showed. The average package was worth £5.6m. The calculation was based on the so-called “single figure” pay disclosure of 62 top flight companies that have published their pay reports for the 2015 financial year. The figure includes salary, bonus, long term incentives and pensions. Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, said: “The evidence, which is coming directly from companies’ own annual reports, is that the 20-year rising trend in top company pay continues unabated.” The average UK worker suffered from six years of falling wages in real terms from 2008 as inflation outpaced pay growth. Pay growth has since picked up, but is still below pre-crisis levels and has remained sluggish despite other signs of improvement in the UK jobs market, where employment is at a record high of 31.4 million. In the latest available official data, average weekly earnings for employees rose 2.1% in the three months to January compared with a year earlier. The TUC has warned that a full recovery in the value of wages is still years away, with average weekly earnings still worth £40 a week less than before the financial crash. GUARDIAN

Goldman Sachs to pay $5bn in US for its role in the 2008 financial crisis
This is only the latest multibillion-dollar civil settlement reached with a major bank over the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which earlier this year agreed to pay $3.2bn, are two of the last big banks to pay up. Bank of America agreed to pay the largest of the settlements, $16.6bn, in 2014. A year earlier, JPMorgan Chase paid about $13bn. The Goldman Sachs settlement will consist of a $2.385bn civil monetary penalty, $875m in cash payments, and $1.8bn in consumer relief. Among other measures, the bank will offer a reduction in unpaid principal for affected homeowners and borrowers. The settlement, over the sale of mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007, was first announced in January. The deal, however, includes no criminal sanctions or penalties and is likely to stir additional criticism about the Justice Department’s inability to hold bank executives personally responsible for the financial crisis. GUARDIAN

Friday 8 April 2016

Friday, April 08, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
Chris, KJ and Fee think their chances could be quite good...

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Britain under pressure to end opposition to tax haven blacklist
Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner in charge of tax policy, urged member states to throw their support behind his plans for a blacklist of tax havens – an idea dismissed last year by UK officials. He cited the case of Lichtenstein as a success, arguing that a deal to hand over information to the EU was accelerated because the principality wanted to get off the list. Last year, the commission made a first attempt at creating a blacklist when it published the names of 30 “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions”. The list was based on EU member states’ own varying ideas and included the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong and Panama. The British government, which does not keep a blacklist of tax havens, criticised the move as “deeply unhelpful”. A briefing in the name of Treasury minister David Gauke, seen by the Guardian, described it as “a misleading list, since most countries and jurisdictions which are referred to are as transparent as EU member states”. The Treasury document went on to claim that “the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies have put themselves at the forefront of global tax transparency over the last couple of years”. As the Observer reported in January, Treasury officials also lobbied Brussels against action against Bermuda, a tax haven favoured by Google. David Cameron said on Tuesday that no government or prime minister had done more “to make sure we crack down on tax evasion, on aggressive tax avoidance, on aggressive tax planning, both here in the UK and internationally”.

Definition of Tax Avoidance is using tax law in a way "Parliament never intended."


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