Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Render unto Caesar...

One of the problems we tax advisers have is in dealing with people, generally as prospects, who simply don't want to pay any tax at all. Somehow, the current climate of cracking down on tax avoidance (legal) as well as tax evasion (illegal) seems to have passed by these people. Usually they go further: “Why should this Government get their hands on this money? I did not vote for them. They won't spend it wisely. It is immoral how much they try to take.” Now many of us have these sentiments, but those of us who are law-abiding and understand the law (which is the overwhelming majority) grin and bear it and pay our taxes.

There are ways of tax avoidance, and these days I find myself felling uncomfortable with aggressive contrived schemes, none of which I have recommended in recent years. Of course there are tax shelters we can all use, such as various types of pensions, ISAs, National Savings Certificates and Premium Bonds, to name but a few of the obvious approved devices. Let me know and I will find you a good IFA.

Every now and again though, these people of the alternative persuasion turn up. They may be ageing hippies come into money, or ageing hippies or anarchists who suddenly have an expectation of money, although no doubt they condemned the rich and their wealth when younger. Now some money might be about to fall into their hands, inherited from their careful parents, or from some capitalist scheme in which they are involved, or from damages they expect to get through the blame culture because they feel wronged, and suddenly it is a different game. The name of the game is greed, avarice, call it what you will, and their twenty-year-old selves would have been shocked if they knew what they would become.

I talk these prospects through their options, which for UK-based people with UK-based family histories are fairly restricted, they get all upset at not being able to keep all their money, and they spurn my preliminary advice because it is not what they want to hear. I never hear from them again, and to be quite frank that is a great relief.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”

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