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Wednesday 4 April 2012

Boris And A Tax Return – Take 2

Yesterday, the London Mayoral hopefuls took to the airwaves to try and garner favour with the listeners on LBC, under the inquisitorial gaze of Nick Ferrari. But the main event kicked off after the show in the lift taking them up to the roof for their photo-op as occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson repeatedly denounced Labour challenger Ken Livingstone as a “f***ing liar”.

The campaign to get in here becoming slightly fraught

Bozza’s excursion from the highway of classical prose onto the dirt track of Anglo-Saxon expletives was triggered – as so much of the to and fro of this campaign has been – by a disagreement over the two candidates’ tax arrangements. And, although the Johnson campaign has once again put out information supposedly backing their man’s line, questions persist over the matter.

The latest letter of support for Bozza has come from his accountant. You read that correctly: he has used the services of an accountant since the 1990s, the kind of thing he would do if he worked through his own limited company, something he claims not to be doing (having a limited company also means having to use an accountant to sign off the books).

And nor does the wording in the letter, from Messrs Begbies of London EC1 (so much more superior an address to a tawdry back street in Brighton, don’t you know?) to Bozza’s campaign manager Lynton Crosby, do any more than provoke yet more questions. It first lays into Livingstone, telling “it is quite improper for these allegations to be repeated”, but what comes next is where it gets interesting.

Here’s the key wording: “All of his freelance earnings have been included in his tax returns, and subjected to income tax at the appropriate rates. He has never used a company either to shelter his income from taxation, or to meet other private expenditure, or to employ staff” [my emphasis]. That does not answer the question of whether Bozza worked through a limited company.

Why not? Because the statement is not “He has never used a companyfull stop. It is carefully hedged: no suggestion has been made that he has tried to somehow avoid Income Tax (although it has been made against Livingstone). What do Begbies mean by “shelter his income from taxation”? Livingstone’s income is what he takes out of his company. No “sheltering” of that has taken place.

As I said previously, if Bozza has paid Income Tax on his Mayoral stipend, the “chicken feed” from the Maily Telegraph, and any other fees all in the same tax year then he would have paid more than three times what Livingstone paid himself in total. So releasing his tax return would be an instant win for him, which begs the question: why is he hiding behind forms of words instead?

Why won’t Bozza release that tax return? What’s the problem?


Damocles said...

Blimey Tim, we've been through this. When did Boris say that people shouldn't use avoidance measures on tax payments? When did Kenneth Robert Livingstone say people shouldn't use avoidance measures on tax payments?

That's the nub of the issue.

You know that.

Tim Fenton said...

This post is about Boris and the difficulty his campaign is having in giving a straight answer on their man's tax arrangements.

So let's not start demanding that we "look over there".

Damocles said...

Having not opined that people shouldn't use avoidance measures on tax payments Boris has no question to answer.

Tim Fenton said...

No, I still don't want to "look over there". Try and keep on topic.

John Ruddy said...

I've also yet to see any evidence that Ken has ever said that people shouldnt use companies if they employ staff....

Anonymous said...

Its quite simple Damocles, If Boris and his campaign want to throw mud at Ken then they must be prepared to answer the same questions and allegations... fairs fair after all.

Damocles said...

Well Boris is publishing and Ken is prevaricating.

On the other hand Boris never claimed that using tax avoidance measures should exclude people from public office, which is the aspect of this entire affair that many Ken supporters seem all too willing to skip over.

Tim Fenton said...

You're repeating yourself (again). Let's stick to the topic and leave others to rush to judgement.

Even after all the candidates put their tax details out there, I've no doubt there will be complaints. But so far Bozza is in front on this one.

Why he didn't do this earlier is a mystery - see post.

Damocles said...

TBH, the only person I've really seen calling for him to release his tax return up until yesterday was you and I don't think he reads your blog.

Tim Fenton said...

Well, there you go, you learn something every day.