Under normal circumstances, I would not be overly fussed about the tax affairs of the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes. But as he has taken to calling out Labour’s London Mayoral challenger Ken Livingstone for tax avoidance – including his stunt last week where he succeeded only in alienating many in the media – those circumstances have changed.
Course I'm not offshore, I'm in f***ing Westminster
Unlike Livingstone, who is a UK citizen, domiciled in the UK, and paying tax in the UK, Staines’ situation is less clear. The Great Guido holds Irish nationality, and owns (or his wife owns) three properties at which he spends significant time during the year, these being in the UK, Ireland, and France. And, as he so enjoys talking about limited companies, maybe it should be pointed out that he appears to have one too.
Staines admits only to being an “advisor” to Global and General Nominees Ltd (G&G), which is registered in the tax haven – make that offshore tax haven – of Nevis. But, given that G&G holds the registration for the Guido Fawkes blog, and also has a majority stake in EOS Media, owner of MessageSpace, it is safe to assume that he controls G&G as well.
So what is Staines’ tax status? Is he domiciled in the UK for tax purposes? What is the status of his employees, which would appear to include his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole? Who prepares the accounts (one has to suspect that it is not someone in Brighton with a back street premises and a rusty nameplate, like that rotten lefty Livingstone and Silveta)?
After all, this is the pillar of the right leaning and libertarian blogosphere who has given the impression that channelling funds through a limited company is A Very Bad Thing and done only to avoid paying (at least some) tax. It would be most unfortunate if the Great Guido was indulging in this same practice, or even one where he paid yet less to the UK Exchequer.
In the circumstances, it is only right that Staines answers the questions I have put. It is also entirely predictable that his response will be somewhere in the range between “ignore him and he’ll go away” and yet more smears from Cole, with a side order of dishonesty and obfuscation. But the questions will not go away, and their asking is entirely Staines’ own fault.
Had he not joined in the Ken bashing, his tax affairs would have merited little or no interest. But now he has tried to paint Livingstone as a hypocrite merely for operating as HMRC allows – and even encourages – he gives every appearance of existing in a very draughty glasshouse. Unless he offers up a convincing explanation, there can be only one verdict on the Great Guido.
And that’s that he’s the biggest hypocrite. Another fine mess, once again.
It goes a little further than that.
During the course of acrimonious litigation Staines obtained a freezing order against a former business associate. This required him to demonstrate that he was in a position to compensate the other party should it turn out to have been wrongly granted. He accomplished this by lying about his net worth. There were several elements to the deception, but it involved in part withholding the fact that he had failed to pay a substantial tax liability by falsely claiming non-resident status. The Revenue went on to bankrupt him over this bill.
As glass houses go, this is a rather large one.
He probably doesn't think it's a bad thing at all. So he's not a hypocrite.
The same characters either sit on the sidelines or even have the gall to flag wave as full tax paying UK troops are packed off to illegal or self-interested wars that promote and secure our way of life back home using large gobbets of tax payer cash offered up to pay these soldiers, arm them with weapons. All done to assist and almost never avoided. They have no morality to speak of. He blocks me on Twitter I'm pleased to report. I would not want to be even unintentionally associated.
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