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HSBC whistleblower names UK accounts in Jersey – is your tax paid?

The Daily Telegraph reported on 9 November 2012 that that same week a bank whistleblower had grassed up 4,388 UK people with accounts at HSBC in Jersey.

HMRC has, unusually, confirmed that they have received this information and will be using it to check the tax rules ‘are being respected’. What a lovely phrase!

What have HMRC been given?

Details of over 4,000 people in the UK who had money in HSBC in Jersey, sometimes known as HSBC Expat. This means their name, UK address and the amount in the HSBC account.

The average balance in the accounts disclosed is £337,000.

Whose accounts are these?

The accounts are held by a wide range of people from people who are now retired to senior figures in the City, to criminals of various sizes.  They will doubtless be from all parts of the UK.

My own experience as a Tax Inspector, and more recently as a tax consultant, tells me that people in Northern Ireland have a particular attraction to putting their money in Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.

Should everyone named be scared?

Absolutely not.  There is nothing illegal in having money in Jersey or anywhere else offshore.  Wat is illegal is not paying the right UK tax.  The tradition of banking secrecy surrounding the Channel Islands, Switzerland, Leichtenstein and the Isle of Man has encouraged certain behaviour.  This behaviour may, in itself, be illegal.

So who has something to fear?

You should worry if the existence of your money offshore points to some form of illegal activity, including tax evasion.  This could mean:

  • The source of the money invested was not properly declared and taxed, or
  • The means of obtaining the money invested was itself criminal (drugs, guns, bribery etc), or
  • The interest earned on the accounts was not declared.

This last point is interesting.  We help a lot of people to declare offshore savings and income, sometimes going back many years.  In some cases the original source of the money is completely legit.  For example the life insurance when your spouse died, or a transfer from a UK savings account.  Where people have come unstuck is that once the legal money was offshore they failed to declare the interest it earned.  That then becomes illegal tax evasion.

If you have an undeclared offshore account…

Now is the time to confess to HMRC – that is before they come to you.  In general you will be given an easier time if you come forward to HMRC to tell them something was wrong with your tax affairs.  You will also generally pay a lower penalty – that is what is added to the bill as a percentage of the tax you owe.

Who will help me with this?

I would say a person who declares offshore income without professional help has a fool for a client.  This is a case where expert help may save you thousands, and will get the matter closed more quickly. (These are stressful experiences.)  You may feel that your regular accountant does not have the practice and expertise in handling such tax investigations.  It is for this reason that we are often brought in.  When the case is closed we then hand the client back to the regular accountant to continue with routine tax returns and preparing of business accounts.

And if I am on HMRC’s list and do nothing?

Then you simply check the post every morning wondering when HMRC will write to you.  Of course they might call in person or phone your accountant.

What HMRC will NOT do is email you about your offshore account.  If you get an email from HMRC with an allegation (or good news about a refund) then the email is false and should be reported by forwarding it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

This is just the latest of a range of banking disclosures HMRC has received from whistleblowers – some of whom were paid substantial rewards.  (See video here). It seems this is likely to continue and whoever still has offshore money hidden should be afraid.

 

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080. He and his former Tax Inspector wife Felicity Huston specialise in handling tax investigations and disclosures to HMRC.

Adrian also appears on TV radio and in the press commenting on tax matters. See www.YouTube.com/HustonTV 

Earning money as an HMRC informant?

HMRC is paying many thousands of pounds each year to informants who tell them about people who are not declaring all of their income. 

Paid informants received £373,780 in 2011/12 which was well up on the previous year’s £309,620.

This information was obtained thanks to the London law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP (RPC) who extracted it from HMRC under the Freedom of Information Act.

One of RPC’s partners Adam Craggs said “Typically, an HMRC informant will be an angry spouse during divorce proceedings. For the spouse, threatening to supply information to HMRC provides them with some leverage during divorce settlement negotiations. If the divorce is particularly acrimonious, it is not uncommon for a spouse to turn HMRC informant.”

And how right Mr Craggs is. I know from my time working for the Revenue that one of the most valuable informants is an aggrieved former spouse. I recall specific cases where these spouses came into the tax office to provide very detailed information about the tax-fiddling of their estranged other half. I recall one woman confirming we had all the information we needed, then announcing “Right then, now I’m off to the dole office!” This was because the guy was also fiddling his benefits. A woman scorned…

VIDEO ON THIS: http://youtu.be/ljX2jcf1gVk

In my days in HMRC there was no prospect of paying informants. People told you stuff about suspected tax evasion for a variety of reasons, for example because:

  • they felt it was the right thing to do
  • they were jealous that they couldn’t fiddle their taxes
  • they had been annoyed by your business (perhaps they live nearby)
  • you did a shoddy job for them for cash
  • you used to employ them
  • you and they used to be in a relationship and it’s over

People still call in a local tax office (if they can find one) to share information about tax fiddling, and they also write to HMRC, either giving their name or just dishing the dirt anonymously.

HMRC has set up a Tax Evasion Hotline 0800 788 887 which is staffed 0800hrs to 1800hrs Monday to Friday. This is a confidential number so you can report someone who you suspect is not paying the right amount of tax. By the way, before calling, see how much you can gather to help identify the suspected fraudster, like name, address, vehicle number, mobile number, landline number.

As with any confidential supply of information, HMRC is aware you may have your own motives for making the call. They also know that what you say is suspicious may turn out to be innocent, or may be properly declared. Nevertheless they will consider everything you tell them.

Again from my experience as a Tax Inspector I recall investigating people where we had anonymous information in a letter making various allegations. Many of the allegations turned out to have an acceptable explanation, but there were very useful nuggets which turned a dead-end investigation into a fruitful one.

Nowadays the Tax Evasion Hotline even allows you to inform on someone over the internet – using the form at www.hmrc.gov.uk/tax-evasion/hotline.htm You must supply an email address that HMRC can use to send you an acknowledgement. If you don’t supply that then they will ignore what you are saying. They will not however contact you for further information.

On the other hand if you are happy to be contacted for further clarification, then there is space to leave your fuller contact details. Given how easy it is to set up a gmail account, this effectively means you can give your information pretty-much anonymously.

As for becoming one of these paid informants, I haven’t a clue how you go about it. I know in the past some of the money HMRC paid was to obtain, from former bankers, lists of offshore account-holders from the UK. As for who the recent payments went to, it’s anybody’s guess as HMRC has the whole process cloaked in secrecy. If your information helps bring down a big-scale tax fiddler then there might be scope to get paid for your help. I guess if you wanted to see if a reward might be payable you should make that clear in your first contact with HMRC. Also keep a note of when you phoned and any reference you are given. This would help if in the future you wanted to claim your information helped HMRC bring down Mr Big.

Are there any lessons to learn now you know HMRC pays informants?

  1. Don’t fiddle your taxes.
  2. Don’t let others know you fiddle your taxes – even your spouse or closest friends.
  3. If you are fiddling, then stop.
  4. The longer you are stopped the more chance you might get away with it.

Wonder how much HMRC will pay people for tax evasion intelligence this year?

VIDEO ON THIS: http://youtu.be/ljX2jcf1gVk

Hair-raising tax task-force for N Ireland

Hairdressers and beauty salons in Northern Ireland face a clampdown from today. HMRC has launched a taskforce in the province hoping to bring in an extra £2.5 million. Up to 300 businesses may be hit.

This follows a series of taskforces into various business sectors across the UK. Each Taskforce tends to be dedicated to a region of the UK, and now it is Northern Ireland’s turn. 

Regular readers of my column may remember that one of only a handful of people jailed in Northern Ireland for tax offences was a hairdresser. Michael McGuigan was sentenced to over 2 years jail in a Belfast court back in 2000. He was later disqualified from being a company director.

So what should today’s hairdressers and beauty salon operators fear from this taskforce into the hair and beauty business?

CHAIR RENTAL – some hairdressers will try to avoid ‘employing hairdressers’ by charging them a rent for their chair. Then the stylist claims they are self-employed. This is used as a way of the owner keeping their turnover down, avoiding PAYE paperwork and perhaps not registering for VAT. HMRC doesn’t like this and anyone charging rents for chairs, or themselves paying a landlord chair rent, may find they are under the spotlight. The same will apply for beauticians who rent a space in a salon.

VAT REGISTRATION – If your sales in any rolling 12-month period exceed £77,000 then you have to register for VAT. So any salon with more than about 3 stylists should probably be registered. Bigger salons which aren’t VAT-registered may find HMRC coming for them. They may even borrow tips from their Customs colleagues, and watch the premises for a while before contacting the business. That way they can assess how many customers come and go. It’s a good way to see if the till records might be wrong.

NOT REGISTERED AS SELF-EMPLOYED – Once you set up on your own you must register with HMRC within 3 months. It’s easy to do – by phone, online or by filling in a wee form. If you miss this deadline you become liable to a £100 fine, and you have started off your relationship with HMRC in a bad way!

CASH TAKINGS, not declared – these days, with the Ulster Bank in free-fall and RBS only recovering from a melt-down, people are forced to operate in cash more than they might normally. Many people still pay for hair and beauty treatments by cash. Nothing wrong with that. Of course the problem comes if the person in business does not declare the sale! HMRC looks at cash business and assumes some of the cash is not declared. You then have to convince them otherwise.

PAYE FOR STAFF – two problems arise with employers who have staff. One is that they don’t tax them properly as employees, deducting tax and National Insurance. The other problem is when they take tax and National Insurance off the staff, but don’t pay it over to HMRC. This sometimes happens due to cash-flow but in all cases is viewed very seriously by HMRC. They see is as akin to theft – you took the money off your worker saying it was tax, then aren’t passing it on to HMRC. I expect this new HMRC taskforce will be on the lookout for workers paid but not properly taxed, and also for employers who are holding onto the tax they have deducted.

TAX ARREARS – if your hair or beauty business has arrears of income tax or corporation tax you can expect that your higher profile may encourage the HMRC Taskforce in your direction. After all you have demonstrated that your business poses a risk to HMRC of them not getting the tax which is payable.

WEDDINGS – just like the rest of us, HMRC staff often get married. (To prove the point I married a Tax Inspector myself, but she has since joined me on ‘the other side’). This means the staff are well aware how much is spent on treatments coming up to a wedding, or on the big day. If your business fails to declare these large one-off events then you are committing an offence and could face the wrath of the Revenue.

HOME-BASED & MOBILE SALONS – lots of people start out in a small way working from home, or the back of their car. The same rules apply about having to register and declare all your income. Don’t forget that HMRC receives anonymous information about people who may be fiddling their taxes. So even if you think you have kept a low profile, HMRC may still have your details on a little list. And they use Facebook too!

ACTION PLAN

This HMRC taskforce on hairdressers and beauty salons is only operating in Northern Ireland. There’s a good chance, if you are in the business, that you or one of your competitors will come to their attention. Of course your competitor might never admit it. Take the time, now, to do some housekeeping to make sure your compliance with the tax rules is top-notch. You will have an easier run from HMRC if they see you have already improved things.

Isle of Man / Guernsey banks handing info to HMRC

Letters received in recent days will have caused a few people to choke on their Corn-Flakes. The banks in the Isle of Man and Guernsey are about to pass details for the first time to the UK tax people – the feared HMRC. New clients have already come to us bearing these bank letters and wanting to come clean to HMRC. Wise move.

This comes about because the Isle of Man became the first offshore territory to implement the automatic exchange of information within the EU. This it has done to show it wants nothing to do with tax evasion. Guernsey is also passing information to HMRC. (Jersey has instead upped the tax they deduct to 35%, preserving confidentiality…for now.)

Until now if you had money in the Isle of Man or Guernsey you had two choices – let your details be passed to the UK HMRC – and get your interest paid gross, or maintain your secrecy and have some tax deducted by the IoM/Guernsey bank. Those days are gone.

The banks must now inform HMRC of your details and the interest you have earned. These new rules started from July 2011 and the first notification will be of interest earned in the year to 5 April 2012.

This raises an interesting point. You may be thinking that if the interest is small HMRC will leave you alone. Unlikely. The banks have recently dropped their savings interest rates to pitiful levels. 0.1% per year is not unknown. This means that even though the interest you got was tiny, it could suggest to HMRC that you are sitting on a much larger pile of cash.

For example of your Isle of Man interest was just £100, that could have been earned from a deposit of £100,000.

The other thing is that HMRC can go back 20 years. So long as they know you have money offshore, which you haven’t told them about, they will assume that the undeclared income is bigger in earlier years.

HMRC will also be very interested in the original source of the money. If it was invested in the past 20 years then you might also owe tax on that. For example if you did some consultancy work and put the money offshore. The income should have been taxed when earned and so HMRC would want their money.

Good news, though, for the typical offshore investor. Most people opened these accounts in the 1980s and 1990s. Money lodged over 20 years ago cannot be taxed by HMRC – they are too late. So the only thing to be taxed in the interest received in the past 20 years.

Don’t be worrying about going to jail. Unless HMRC has previously investigated you, and through that you continued to hide an offshore account, they will just take money off you. Tax, interest and penalties.

Our firm has been specialising in tax investigations like these for 20 years, and so can reassure you that we can help out even where the information is incomplete. We have built up a database of typical offshore interest rates. Thus the fact that you may be missing some or many bank statements will not stop us sorting out your tax.

The clock is ticking until all holders of undeclared Isle of Man and Guernsey accounts get a letter from HMRC. Now that really will make them choke on their Corn-Flakes!

Trust me – as the Tax Inspector in the Harry Redknapp case said – you will get an easier ride if you approach HMRC before they approach you. Don’t do it alone though!

Read more about what to do if you missed the offshore tax amnesties – whether to speak up or keep quiethere.

Is this a tax investigation? read here

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080.

Harry Redknapp and the dog walk free from tax case BBC TV

Harry Redknapp and Milan Mandaric have walked free after a jury found them not guilty of tax evasion (posh term ‘cheating the public revenue’). My national BBC interview about the fall-out from the case is at www.YouTube.com/HustonTV

This means Redknapp’s dog Rosie – if she’s still around – can stop biting her claws. She was accused of being the tax-fiddling dog as the Monaco bank account was opened by Redknapp in her name, after he flew to Monaco to open it.

This case and its ending is an embarrassment for HMRC and raises the following questions:

  • Why did HMRC spend a fortune bringing this prosecution?
  • What singled Redknapp out for prosecution?
  • Should HMRC stop these high-profile tax prosecutions?

Why did HMRC spend a fortune bringing this prosecution?

They don’t take many suspected tax-fiddlers to court. In fact the vast majority – over 99% are settled quietly with a payment of tax, interest and penalties. Many high profile people have paid up for large tax investigations in the past and the matter has been kept secret due to taxpayer confidentiality. Under new legislation there will be public naming of people who fiddle more than £25,000 in tax, but those names are yet to start appearing, as the law is fairly new.

This case was taken as HMRC was given information which came out of the larger Police investigation into bungs and bonuses in British Football. It is said that the big investigation cost some £8 million.

Information also from HMRC’s key witness – journalist Rob Beasley – suggested the money lodged offshore was a bonus. In Court Harry Redknapp said that he had lied to the journalist but was telling the truth to the Court.

What singled Redknapp out for prosecution?

The factors which would have meant HMRC thought they had a strong case included:

  • Redknapp had not admitted to the account in a previous tax investigation. (Most tax prosecutions are people who withheld information in a previous investigation.)
  • He had gone out of his way to set up the account. He flew to Monaco and set it up in a false name – his dog’s. The Account was named Rosie 47. (Harry was born in ’47.) There’s rarely an innocent motive for such behaviour.
  • HMRC had the evidence of the taped conversation with the journalist admitting the lodgements were bonuses.
  • With falling tax payment figures, HMRC may have been keen to have a high-profile tax prosecution – to encourage others to come clean.

Unfortunately juries are fickle things, and HMRC called it wrong on this one.

Should HMRC stop these high-profile tax prosecutions?

Interesting question. For my part I don’t think they should stop them but they need to go into Court knowing these cases are different. They need to use Celebrity lawyers ready to fight the case on the soft woolly aspect of the case, not just the boring numbers stuff.

Redknapp used what I call ‘The Celebrity Defence’. He basically said ‘I’m a simple man, don’t really understand these things…I leave it all to my accountant’.

This defence was used in the last big-name tax court case – the tax prosecution of comedian Ken Dodd – way back in 1989.

The only other big name to be publicly done for tax evasion in my 25 years in tax was Lester Piggott – the jockey. He was found to have evaded tax on millions, using false names and overseas bank accounts.

So – 25 years – 3 big-name prosecutions. Not very many. And certainly not enough for the general population to get the HMRC message.

HMRC wants people to believe that the big guys get caught too. Sadly with such numbers the man-in-the-street thinks HMRC is out to get him, and the big names get a light touch. Hard not to think that!

Now that Harry Redknapp can put this stressful case behind him at least he has something to take his mind off it. Does he want a new job managing England?

 

This article will also appear in the Belfast Telegraph

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080.

Redknapp & the tax-fiddling dog

In my YouTube video (Tax Evasion for Pets) Kim the tax fiddling collie opens her own bank account… 

As the trial progresses we will learn more about what Redknapp was allegedly up to, but this article should help you understand what went on, according to HMRC’s lawyers…

Back in the day – when I was a Tax Inspector investigating suspected tax fraud, it was not unusual to find money stashed away in other people’s names. The fiddler would often set up accounts in the name of his or her spouse, parents or children. I must say Harry Redknapp’s case – where the account was named after his dog – is taking things to a whole new level…

When Redknapp flew to Monaco to open the account, that account was apparently called ‘Rosie 47’ – named after his dog plus the year of his (not his dog’s) birth. As the trial continues we are yet to hear from Mr Redknapp about the money lodged to this account, but it seems that when quizzed he kept changing his story about how the money ended up there. It was an investment…a gift…a loan…employment income…none of these…

This is no surprise to those of us handling tax investigations, albeit now on the side of the client. When someone is backed in a corner he panics. He starts spouting off random explanations for where the money came from. He thinks he can guess which answer shows him in the best light. When probed further he retracts that line and takes another.

The real reason Redknapp is in the dock is not for failing to declare the money (HMRC could have settled that quietly with him.) The real reason is that he was under investigation by the Revenue concerning previous bonus payments – and ‘forgot’ to mention the Monaco account and lodgements.

In almost all high-profile prosecutions there is an aggravating factor. The ancient Lester Piggott tax case is another example. There, as in the Redknapp case, in the process of a tax investigation the suspect thought it was still a good idea to conceal the truth. That’s when cuddly Mr Tax-Man turns nasty and starts thinking about court!

This case should provide good viewing over the next couple of weeks, especially if Harry Redknapp chooses to take to the stand and try to explain what he was at. One wonders…is there an innocent reason to fly to a tax haven, name a bank account after your dog, and then conceal its existence from your accountant and the tax people?

HMRC and the Police believe the money paid into Redknapp’s account by the former Portsmouth FC chairman Milan Mandaric were part of Redknapp’s share of a commission on transfer payments. The prosecution is of both Redknapp and Mandaric for ‘cheating the public revenue’ by avoiding tax on the payments. This is standard wording used in tax trials.

Some readers will be surprised that Redknapp hid the money from his accountants as well as HMRC. In fact this is normal practice with people cheating HMRC. They know that by telling their professional adviser, that person will be duty-bound to declare it to HMRC. If they change accountants over the row, then the new accountant should learn about the issue from the former one.

If you, or one of your pets, have been suspected of tax evasion, make sure you seek specialist tax help as early as possible. It could save you many thousands and could keep you out of jail. Call Adrian Huston or Felicity Huston on 028 9080 6080.

Tax Help joins the YouTube age

I write this as my YouTube channel marks an important milestone. Videos on it, offering free tax advice, have now been viewed a total of 10,000 times. 

This is great news for those in search of free tax help – since the success of the channel means I will continue to record and post videos on it. The channel is at www.YouTube.com/HustonTV

I thought readers might be interested in learning why I set up the channel and which videos have proved of most interest.

Back in 2009 (and in digital terms that’s a long time ago) I realised there really was no-one offering video help with tax matters for the UK. A few people were doing it Stateside. If you were worried about your tax all you could do was go on the terrible HMRC website (still not great in 2012) or search online for an article posted by someone. I felt there was surely an unfulfilled desire for the information to be put out differently. Visual seemed to be the way forward. I am pleased to see that since I started a few others, including the professional press, have started dabbling, though some charge for watching the videos.

So out came the camcorder. Out also came my good friend Bill Jeffrey – a veteran commentator on business issues. I reckoned Bill, with his wealth of experience in front of theatre audiences, TV and movie cameras, was just the man to interview me on camera.

Before I used Bill, the first few videos were simply a recording I did sitting in my living room. It was around the time MPs were getting grief for having taxpayer-funded second homes. I did a few videos, one on the MP’s thing and a couple for landlords and people selling their holiday homes or let properties.

Of course I am in business as a tax consultant and accountant. So these videos have to do more than offer free tax advice – they need to grow our business. Thankfully they also bring in new clients. People often have a look at the video and then decide to give us a call. Like all social media used in commerce, it needs a certain amount of managing, and needs to form part of the strategy for promoting our business. For a while we had a separate website showing the videos, but that dissipated our numbers of hits. So when we redesigned our web presence all was brought together under one site, from which people can depart to view the videos.

These early videos on rents and CGT have been the most popular and continue to be viewed to this day, clocking up some 1,400 views each.

The thing about having your own YouTube channel is you might use it for personal as well as business items. (Note to HMRC – The channel is free – so I am not claiming tax relief on personal expenses.)

When my son Alex Huston stood up and addressed the House of Commons (in a sitting of the UK Youth Parliament) I was able to post the recording online so friends and family could see it. It was an immediate hit, currently sitting with over 800 views.

When our other son – under-18 British Champion archer Patrick Huston – makes a TV appearance, his will also be posted, allowing his mates, coaches and fellow competitors to see it.

Back to the tax side, then, which tax videos are most popular and remain on the current site?

Renting out property – the tax rules.

Capital Gains Tax on second homes.

Jail for married couple over tax fiddles.

With a YouTube site offering advice I do find from time-to-time that I will take a video off the site. There may have been a time limit on its validity, or the rules may have changed. Some popular ones stay on because people are still viewing them and they have been mentioned elsewhere on the web, so I don’t want someone else to have a link to a video which then won’t work.

What, then, pushed the channel over the 10,000 views mark? Well it was my video about how Tony Blair’s companies bring in over £12 million yet minimal tax is paid. This followed my article on the same subject in the Belfast Telegraph. When I blogged on this subject I got national attention.

Finally, thank you to all those who are part of the first 10,000 viewers. I look forward to the next milestone.

Adrian Huston, a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080.

My tax question for Tony Blair

My latest YouTube video poses the following question for the former Prime Minister:

Tony Blair – have you been tax resident in the UK each year since you left Downing Street?”

My reason for wanting that question answered is my suspicion that with the low tax bills his companies pay, and the very low number of days Tony Blair spend in the UK, Tony Blair Inc (the casual name given to his myriad of companies and partnerships) benefits substantially from him being non-resident for tax purposes.

I go into more detail in my Blog post which has had fantastic reader numbers, called Tony Blair’s Tax Bill Mystery.

None of the statements I have seen which were put out by Tony Blair’s spokesman have confirmed that he has remained UK resident for tax purposes since leaving office as PM.  If he is non-resident then this could go some way towards explaining how one of his companies managed to spend £8 million in tax-allowable expenses in the year to 31 March 2011. (It could have been paid to offshore entities ultimately controlled by Tony Blair).

You can access the video here or via my free tax articles website www.YouTube.com/HustonTV

Tony Blair’s tax bill mystery

May 2013 Bloomberg quotes Adrian Huston and puts Adrian’s tax questions directly to Tony Blair.  Read their article here.  My blog below was published Jan 2012 and has been read by thousands.

The Daily Mail reports that former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s earnings have soared by 42% to £12 million.  Despite this the tax bill was only £315,000.

Wouldn’t we all like a situation like that?

Many of his financial dealings are hard to pin down due to the use of partnerships (Limited Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships) and business structures which do not have to publish full accounts of their income and expenses. This level of complexity, something he criticised when in power, is not necessary to organise the activities of one man, no matter what his spokesperson says.

Despite the complexity, figures are available for Windrush Ventures Ltd.  Its only share is owned by Bircham and Co Nominees Ltd. Thankfully company law requires the accounts to show who is really in control.  The accounts state “The ultimate controlling party… is ACL Blair.”

Or Tony to his friends.

Anyone can access these accounts, and I have details of how you can do so at the end of this article. Having analysed them I can share with you some of the interesting bits.

Key points of Tony’s company accounts for Windrush Ventures Ltd are:

  • Turnover was £12 million

  • Salaries, including to the directors, totalled £2.3 million

  • Premises rent etc totalled £637,000

  • The accountants made £44,000.

  • No dividend was paid.

  • The corporation tax due was just £315,000

  • This leaves over £8 million in expenses, with no explanation.

  • Three directors served in the year to 31 March 2011 – Catherine Jane Rimmer – British(DOB 21/3/67), Jason Samuel Searancke – a New Zealander (DOB 28/4/68) and Joanne Alice Gibbons (Jo Gibbons) – UK resident (DOB 25/12/63 – who resigned on 7 October 2010.)

  • The highest paid director received in total £200,000 in the year.

  •  In total the directors earned £481,000.  One director received £70,000 compensation for loss of office.

It is not clear whether these accounts include the fees Tony Blair receives as an adviser to JP Morgan – the American bank, or his fees from Zurich International.

The big question here is how did this company spend over £8 million in ‘expenses’?  Most of them were tax-deductible as the small tax bill proves. Of course there will be travel and accommodation costs, and normal office costs, but a million pounds would go a long way in handling all that.

In response to the Daily Mail a spokesman for Tony Blair said “

‘Tony Blair continues to be a UK taxpayer on all of his income worldwide. There are more than 120 people working on all his activities around the world. His companies are all UK registered for tax purposes, and the corporate structure has nothing to do with tax arrangements, but is simply to effectively administer his activities.

‘These figures are not his earnings from Windrush but are the costs of all that Tony Blair does through Windrush. The Windrush accounts are prepared in accordance with the relevant legal, accounting and regulatory guidance.’

As a tax consultant with hundreds of British clients abroad, I have a theory. One perhaps an investigative journalist or blogger might like to pursue.

Is Tony Blair actually non-resident for tax purposes.  If he is resident for tax purposes then why doesn’t his spokesperson just say so. 

In my scenario, so long as he is deemed to be working full-time abroad, and his overseas activities could support that line, then this option may be available to him.  To keep this special tax status he will only be allowed to be in the UK overnight on 90 days per year. That restriction is probably not a problem given the time he spends in the Middle East.

Maybe some of this explains why he isn’t Lord Blair, yet.  Peers (Lords) must be “resident in the UK for tax purposes and accept the requirement to remain so”.

Perhaps someone could ask Tony directly:

1. “Are you resident in the UK for tax purposes?”

2. “Have you been resident in the UK for tax purposes from the date you left office as PM until now?”

The company number for Windrush Ventures Ltd is 6397276 and anyone can view the accounts by going to the Companies House site here

Adrian Huston is a former tax inspector, is a director of Belfast tax and accountancy firm Huston & Co – www.huston.co.uk or 028 9080 6080