Tax Avoidance. Not What You Thought It Was. Apparently.

Tax Avoidance. Not What It Used To Be. Apparently.

I don’t suppose you need me to tell you that there are anomalies in the Tax laws of this Country. There’s one at the end of this blog.

As I have mentioned before it used to be quite simple to understand what a Tax payer should do.

A Tax payer should pay Tax on his earnings/gains in accordance with the Law. That used to be all there was to it.

A person could consider the Law and always work entirely within it but was allowed do so in such a way as to minimise his Tax liability. That sensible concern for one’s affairs is called “Tax Avoidance” and is still perfectly legal.

A person should not cheat the Revenue by misrepresenting his income and gains so as to reduce the amount of Tax which he should pay – that is the crime of Tax evasion!

In recent years the Government [and the Press] has deliberately muddied the water.

The Government now has produced a pamphlet writing about the “Problem” [their word] of Tax Avoidance. Which even in the pamphlet itself is stated to be “not in itself illegal”. Whatever the meaning if any of the usage “in itself” in that sentence, the Treasury has deliberately linked the word “Avoidance” with the word “Illegal”.

Just as Orwell’s Big Brother might refer to the Taj Mahal as “Not in itself Ugly”.

I suppose the “in itself” has been added so that the clearer usage “Not Illegal” is Avoided. Because, the truth is that Avoidance is not illegal. And why on earth would the Treasury want to be clear about that?

The definition of the “problem” of Tax Avoidance given by the Government is:
“Using the Tax laws of the Country to get a Tax advantage that Parliament never intended”.

The Government is thereby admitting that it is not capable of writing down the laws which it actually intends and, also, views it as very naughty indeed that people should
1. Fail to guess what Parliament really meant and then after that
2. Fail to behave in accordance with their [subjective] interpretation of the intention behind the Law, as opposed to obeying the Laws which were actually written down but not intended.
3. Is that all clear?

The pamphlet is saying that if the Farmer [the Treasury] unintentionally leaves the Abattoir gate open then we the sheep [the Citizens of UK] should not run away to freedom from certain death but rather take the view that leaving the gate open is not what the Farmer intended and therefore choose to hang around to be slaughtered.

Are you aware of the joke of the irregular English verb? An example,
I am firm,
You are obstinate,
He is a pig headed fool.

It seems to me that the problem with the current bad press on Tax Avoidance is an example of such an irregular verb – it goes –
I put my affairs in order,
You sail somewhat close the wind,
He should definitely go straight to jail.

In a Country where the Government is telling us that doing what is perfectly legal as a result of its inability to frame Laws which mean what was intended is to be considered a problem– and yet the same Government comes up with Tax Avoidance schemes such as EIS and SEIS and ISAs in every budget and gives Tax relief on some pension contributions and encourages us to take advantage of these Tax Avoidance methods [Tax Avoidance being a problem remember] the temptation is to abandon trying to understand any of this and simply laugh at it instead!

The anomaly? How about a recent piece of news – here- that the Tax authorities have charged a Student a Tax penalty of £1,300.00 for failing to make a Tax return which would likely have shown that no Tax was payable.

Because of a quirk of partnership Tax law the particular student is not allowed to appeal. This presumably is an anomaly and an example of not being “what Parliament was intending”.

Remember how the Government pamphlet [link here] wishes to rap our knuckles for taking financial gain from Laws which do not reflect what Parliament intended? Nobody should benefit from doing that apparently. Except in this case of course the Treasury, which has taken the fine, can benefit. Thank you very much.

Of course you can laugh or cry, your choice

Anyway, from consideration of a world of Double Standards, Newspeak and the Taxman and things you can’t do much about, back to work.

Do please get in touch whenever I can assist and whenever you have a legal issue which has any foreign element. As ever, notary@atkinsonnotary.com or phone me or Louise +44 (0) 1138160116

 

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Holiday Travel with Your Own Children? – see a Notary

Holiday Travel with Your Own Children? – see a Notary

I have blogged before about the risk of delays and difficulties when travelling abroad with children – in terms of the documentation which border guards and airlines are increasingly concerned about.

In all cases the concerns of the authorities are to avoid assisting in the kidnap of children. Therefore the papers are most closely scrutinised – and the lack of them causes the biggest problems – when a child travels with only one parent or with an adult or adults who are not parents of the child.

It is of course only logical that, when a child travels with two adults who say they are the parents of the child, the Authorities should not take the parents’ word for it. That is exactly what kidnappers would say, wouldn’t they!

If the Authorities are doing their job right, they will need real proof of this. Increasingly this proof is indeed being requested.

Most recently the South African government has addressed this issue and has specified that as from 1st June 2015 South African border officers will be requiring production of documents which were previously not needed and these regulations will apply to all travels into South Africa regardless of the travellers’ nationality.

I can give you more detail of the precise South African requirements if you would like to contact me but the importance of this new rule as I see it is really International and not only limited to South Africa.

The fact of the matter is that whenever a case of child kidnapping hits the news headlines, the customs officials and also airlines tighten up their act all around the world. Then, suddenly, what they would have accepted the day before is no longer deemed sufficient. Rules can be applied ad hoc, and without any prior warning.

I would therefore strongly suggest that all parents travelling with their own children should take with them the original Birth Certificates of their children. Wherever your destination.

The certificates should be the full form Birth Certificates – the ones which show the names of both parents. This means that you will be able quickly to satisfy any inspections and prove that you are indeed the parents of the child you are accompanying.

See my earlier blogs or get in touch with me direct to discuss the situation where your child is travelling with only one parent, or with family friends, or where your child is travelling unaccompanied.

Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certifications or Legalisation – at http://www.atkinsonnotary.com or phone me or Louise on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)

Notarise and Legalise Your Papers. Not The Same Thing!

Notarisation and Legalisation. Not The Same Thing!

I see many clients who are unsure of what is being asked for, when a foreign Lawyer asks for documents to be “Notarised And Legalised”.

So I hope this blog will give an explanation of the processes:

Notarisation [step 1]

Documents for use overseas usually require Notary intervention. This usually consists of the Notary either attesting or witnessing and certifying your execution of documents in his presence or alternatively certifying copies or originals of documents as genuine and true.
In order for the Notary to assist in your requirements we need to see identification for each client. This usually consists of a passport or driving licence and proof of address i.e bank statement or utility bill. If your passport is not British, we need to see evidence of your right to be present in England.

The Notarisation is carried out at the time of the appointment – the Notarisation is a statement from the Notary to confirm what has taken place on the day and then finalised with the Notary’s stamp and seal and then dated.

Depending on the Country concerned, there may then be a requirement for Legalisation to take place [see step 2] – if in doubt you can check with your foreign adviser as to whether Legalisation is also required. I can also give you guidance as to the usual requirements of that particular country.

Legalisation [steps 2 & 3]

Legalisation consists of a further stamp issued by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office called the Apostille and/or Consulate stamps.

Apostille [step 2]

The Apostille usually takes no more than a week to obtain. The stamp is issued at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes. This stamp contains a unique number which is assigned to that particular document and the foreign adviser is able to check online that the unique number relates to the document and confirms that I am indeed a full qualified Notary carrying proper Professional insurance.

Consular stamps [step 3]

There may be the requirement to produce the Notarised document to the country’s Consular/Embassy. Some Countries do not require the Apostille before consular production, most do.

The document will need to be physically handed over to the Consulate or Embassy. We have security-vetted agents who are able to undertake this task and obtain the necessary stamps, usually in London.

This stamp finally concludes the document so that it is ready to be accepted abroad.

In order to ensure that your documents are processed in a way which is “right first time”, you need experienced Notarial help. Here I am in Leeds, do get in touch whenever I can assist and whenever you have a legal issue which has any foreign element notary@atkinsonnotary.com or phone me or Louise +44 (0) 1138160116

Too Many Court Cases. Not Enough Lawyers? Problems in the Courts

Too Many Court Cases. Not Enough Lawyers? Problems in the Courts

It is very difficult to find clear statistics but most Lawyers will agree that in recent years – and in particular following the Court procedure reforms of Lord Wolfe and continual cut backs of the availability of Legal Aid there are increasingly cases dealt with by the Courts in which one or both of the parties are representing themselves. The Courts are very busy places – the lists are over-subscribed and waiting lists only get longer.

The obvious need is for Judges to come in to Court fully prepared, after having read written pleadings which clearly identify what facts are alleged and what legal consequences are alleged to flow from those facts according what laws of England and Wales [or whatever country is involved]

Then the function of the Judge, in the absence of a Jury, is to listen to the evidence whilst witnesses explain what has taken place – listen to questions being asked of these witnesses in order to challenge their version of events and after that, to decide what is true. Having made that finding the Judge goes on to state what consequences follow from those facts when the law has been applied to them.

When cases are properly prepared by Lawyers before any hearing in Court then the Court hearings can be short and productive and indeed often such cases are settled because when Lawyers are involved they will point out to the parties the foolishness – as a case in the papers showed today – of spending say £500,000.00 in costs for a dispute about who should repair a leaking gutter which would have cost £7,000.00 to mend.

Of course Lawyers are expensive and these days legal aid is rarely available – Lord Woolf identified in the 1990s that our Court systems were then too complex and his reforms have changed the procedures root and branch.

However if the Courts procedures were too complex that in my view was less than half the problem.

The fact of the matter is that nothing that Lord Woolf has done has made the actual Laws of England any less complex and it seems to me that the consequence of making Court procedures easier has been almost to encourage Litigants to attend the Court in person without Lawyers [whom they cannot afford anyway as Legal Aid for them, for you and me, doesn’t really exist anymore].

Therein to my way of thinking lies the problem. Without a Lawyer the Litigant does not know the law. Once his grievance has arisen he will go to the Internet and try to find out what is the law as it relates to his case.

The analogy to my mind is that of somebody who finds a lump under their skin – going to the Internet is likely to re-inforce their pre-existing position – that they have a cancer.

So somebody who already thinks they have a legal grievance which the Law can remedy will only find encouragement in this from the internet because that is all that they will be looking for.

So what is happening these days is that without any legal advice or assistance from Lawyers but with the mindless encouragement of Internet “research” egging them on, some Litigants are attending the Courts in person with blind, perhaps obsessive, belief in their case and no adequate preparation of it whatsoever.

Mr Justice Holman is quoted as to the predicament that the Judge then finds himself in – “he has no assistance from learned advocates who have researched the law. He has no expert witness evidence of any kind – he is unlikely to have even such basic material as a chronological index or an orderly bundle of documents or a summary of the case and still less any kind of skeleton argument as to how the case fits into the framework of relevant laws. Instead he the Judge has simply to rummage through the inadequate documents which have been supplied and do his best to reach a fair and just conclusion.”

Another difficulty the Judges have is of course they cannot behave towards Litigants in person as concisely as they would to experienced Lawyer Advocates.

A brief “You do not need to continue” addressed to the professional Advocate will be understood as an indication that the Judge accepts the point being made and does not need to hear any more on that subject. The same words addressed to a Litigant in Person will more likely be perceived at rudeness at best but probably be understood to mean that the Judge does not agree with anything that has been represented to him which only goes to encourage the Personal Litigant to speak at greater length!

Furthermore Judges hearing Litigants in Person are forced to listen to what may be nine parts claptrap because there is always the possibility that among it all is actually one part disclosing a genuine and arguable grievance requiring the Court’s remedy. Because really there is no way to ensure that an untrained and possibly inarticulate Litigant has actually explained his whole case other than by listening to everything he has to say until he stops talking!

A consequence of this [what Lord Woolf did not expect?] is that cases where there is no professional Solicitor or Advocate present are taking what – Ten? Twenty? times as long as they used to when there was proper representation.

There is a link here to an academic paper which highlights many of the problems.

It concludes “The nature and intensity of their [Litigants in person’s] participation; the struggles they have comprehending law and procedure; and the importance of ensuring that substantive justice is done in our Courts suggests that unrepresented Litigants need help far more than they need approbation.”

To which in my abrasive way, I say – Durr – you think? Maybe they need – Oh what’s the word – Representation? And Legal Aid to pay for it?

On a lighter note sometimes there is a good deal of humour to be derived. At the end of this Blog is a link to a case in Delaware USA in January this year in which the Judge congratulated the Plaintiff appearing in person for a written application which in his words were

“in my experience a unique example of the Pleader’s art. It cites to the epic of Gilgamesh, Woody Guthrie, The Declaration of Independence, Noah and the great flood. Game of Thrones, Star Wars Episode 5 The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek, President Obama and Euclid’s proof of the Infinity of Primes among other references: it is well written and compelling.

“It can be faulted only for a single – but a significant – shortcoming – in that it fails to state a claim on which the Court could grant relief”

As amusing if not fantastical as the case is and I think it is well worth clicking on the link and reading it [the Claim being that Disney Film Studios for undisclosed reasons of its own is obstructing Mankind’s access to flying cars thus stalling the evolution of Human Transport on this Planet.] –– the fact is that days if not weeks of the Courts time were wasted in bending over backwards to deal with an entirely spurious claim in which a person wishing to develop a flying car has sued Disney for failing to enter into contractual relationship with him for the purpose.

The obligation of Disney to do so according to his claim is the fact that they were willing to talk to him once on the telephone about his idea before rejecting it and telling him not to phone again!

In the course of the litigation the Court had to consider the relationship between Companies and their employees, Companies and their duty to their shareholders, employees and their duty to their employers, the rules of service of documentation given that the Company resides in Delaware whereas one defendant resides in California and the Plaintiff himself in New Jersey so that questions of jurisdiction arose – consideration was given to the American Law of breach of Judicial Duty, the finer points of the Court’s rules on service of documents and upon the rules generally of contract including the distinction between express contract, implied and implied-by-fact contracts and the operation upon those definitions of the doctrine of Promissory Estoppel.

None of these days wasted in learned consideration and exposition of the law would have been required if Lawyers had represented the Litigant in Person.

I think in the Delaware case the Judge enjoyed himself thoroughly and indeed sought to commiserate with the Plaintiff about his lost case, pointing out that whilst people might well laugh at him now the same circumstances often attend the original works of ingenious creators – Mr Alfred the Plaintiff was invited to consider the positions of Galileo and of Stravinsky, the early Impressionist painters and of Van Gogh and not to be disheartened by this early setback.

As he said, if it took Edison over a thousand attempts to create the light bulb, it can only be supposed that the creator of a flying car will be returning to the drawing board more than once but hopefully not in the Courts of Delaware!

Just as Litigants need Lawyers, so parties to contracts and legal papers outside England need experienced Notarial help. Here I am in Leeds, do get in touch whenever I can assist  and  whenever you have a legal issue which has any foreign element notary@atkinsonnotary.com or phone me or Louise +44 (0) 1138160116