Tag Archives: Margaret Hodge

Taxation solved the old way

Yes, that is a nice weird way is it not? It all started yesterday when I was confronted in the Guardian with: ‘‘McMafia’ law: woman who spent £16m at Harrods is jailed banker’s wife‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/10/wife-of-mcmafia-banker-with-16m-harrods-spending-habit-named). The article by itself was not the issue; it woke up a spark in me. Now, I have nothing against wealth, I do not have any and that is fine (for the most mind you). Yet we all have ‘duties’ that we should be bound to and that is fine for the most as well. So as we understand that the UK is close to two thousand billion in debt, does it not seem fair that we all pay our share? From the HRMC point of view, especially those who should be regarded (to its wielding commander Jon Thompson, formerly Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence) as an HRMC positive and subjects of interest. So as such, it was interesting to read that Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of Azerbaijani banker jailed for defrauding his state-owned bank out of as much as £2.2bn gets to live her life with a monthly spending spree of well over £100,000 a month at Harrods alone. So as we are introduced to: “The court of appeal has lifted a veil of secrecy to allow the publication of details of the UK’s first unexplained wealth order (UWO), in which the National Crime Agency alleges that stolen funds were used to buy a £11.5m, five-bedroom property in Knightsbridge, 100 yards from the doors of Harrods“. How is this even possible? And when you consider “The NCA also claims suspect cash funded the £10.5m purchase of Mill Ride golf and country club in Ascot via a company based in Guernsey. The Knightsbridge home was allegedly bought via a firm in the British Virgin Islands, which the NCA alleges is controlled by Hajiyeva“, which for me implies that she will optionally be my neighbour (or nearby neighbour) in the future (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). So when we are casually told that “Hajiyeva’s lawyers had convinced a judge to impose reporting restrictions that prevented the woman, her husband, his bank or their nationality from being reported“, I merely contemplate on how the HRMC has been wasting the time of too many people. When we see that a court ruling gives us: “Hajiyeva could only be referred to as “Mrs A”“. How does any of that make sense? So after well over ten years we see: “The court also heard that Hajiyeva had access to a $42m Gulfstream G550 jet and had a wine cellar stocked with some of the world’s most expensive bottles. Mr Justice Supperstone has ordered that Hajiyeva must comply with the UWO and explain how she amassed the money used to fund the property purchases. If she is unable to prove the legitimate source of the funds, the properties could be seized“. You would think that I care, but I do not, because it all dwarves against ‘Facebook’s UK tax bill rises to £15.8m – but it is still just 1% of sales‘, which implies that the HRMC did more damage to the UK treasury in one year then the labour party could have achieved in a decade of ambitious overspending. OK, that was an exaggeration, but the message is clear. This is an amazing amount of wrong issues regarding corporate taxation and it is time that it is addressed. The mere fact that certain political players have been paying a fast and loose game whilst we all facilitate to keep the treasury coffers in deep debt is just too large an issue. So when we see: “Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP and former chairman of the public accounts committee, said it was “absolutely outrageous that Facebook’s UK tax bill is 0.62% of their revenue here; on an income of £1.2bn they really should be paying much more than £7.4m”“, we can agree that Margaret Hodge is not whistling Dixie, yet her own party did their share of damage between 1997 and 2010, if they had ACTUALLY stepped up to the task, this situation might not have as dire as it seemingly is at present. So both isles are in the wrong here and have been so since close to 1995. When I see: “The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has pledged to push ahead with a new “digital services tax” to force the US firms to pay more tax. He said the UK would introduce its own levy if other countries fail to follow through with a globally coordinated tax plan” I would optionally refer to him as a pussy and a whimp. You see, this could have been solved by taxing at the moment of sales, in the country of the purchasing customer from the get go. Sales tax on anything sold, online through ITunes, Google Play, Facebook and all parts. It would have been so simple, but we see: ‘the UK would introduce its own levy if other countries fail to follow through with a globally coordinated tax plan‘ sounds nice, but that takes years and by the time it is implemented there is a new administration and we see delays and other objections; politicians (mostly) with the spine of a paperback, not one solid spine among them. It has gone on for way too long.

So how does one compare to the other?

Consider: “Hajiyeva is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for defrauding the bank out of up to 5bn manat (£2.2bn)“, so someone walks into the UK, her husband in jail for allegedly stealing over £2,000,000,000, his wife is  spending well over £100,000 a month for over a decade in one shop alone and no one acts? You tell me! Who has been on social services in the UK and got a sly look for spending an additional £200 on a birthday? And it gets better! That we get from Out-Law (at https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2018/october/new-uk-offshore-tax-evasion-and-avoidance-measures-/). Here we are ‘treated’ to: “longer time limits for assessment are being introduced for those who do not voluntarily settle past non-compliance. Criminal prosecutions will also be easier. A register of people with significant control over non-UK companies owning UK real estate is to be introduced in 2021. It will also become mandatory to disclose cross border tax planning“, so the wealthy and the creative with access to accountant and tax lawyers will get three years to plan additional barricades and avoidance discussions, as well as contemplate life outside of the UK.

So how long until we get the news that delays and bad investment timing rears its ugly head from some MP who is required to keep the wealthy just where they are? After all how can we ever afford: “£65 per person including a glass of Harrods Premier Cru Brut, NV Champagne“, well the answer is simple merely because a rough 78.4% of the British tax paying audience will never really be able comfortably be able to afford that unless they give in on essential needs, optionally for months.

In all this there is a wave of not mere injustice, it is seemingly a wave of facilitation towards the overly wealthy, criminal or not. The fact that we are seemingly lulled to sleep by too many is an additional worry. So even as we thought that the police was on top of things with the August article of the Daily Mail (not the greatest source, mind you) giving us: ‘Roll up, roll up for the criminal auction! More than £2.4million worth of crooks’ ill-gotten gains to go under the hammer including a house, diamonds, emeralds, a luxury‘ and we see: “Luxury ill-gotten goods with an estimated value of £2.4 million that were once owned by criminals are set to go under the hammer this month. The expensive items that were seized by police include Rolex watches, gold jewellery, Cartier and Hermes belts and a diamond worth £22,000“, yet this optionally alleged spender of ill-gotten gains (Zamira Hajiyeva) got to spend 15 times the confiscated auctioned amount all by herself, which includes the five-bedroom property in Knightsbridge, and a lot more that is not part of the amount I mentioned here. So, even as we are introduced to a banker who has the wealth levels of a Rothschild, we are seemingly in the dark how this is achieved. You see, I do not care about her or her husband and how they got to do it, I truly do not. The fact that for well over a decade this level of facilitation is possible in the UK and Europe is just insane. And the issue is not that there is an optional solution from 2021 onwards. Italy did something ‘innovative’ years ago. There we see: “For at least a decade, the European Parliament has approved documents that specifically ask to extend the offence of mafia association to all member states – a law that is known as 416 bis in the Italian penal code. The parliament also calls to allow unexplained assets to be confiscated, even without a criminal conviction, which is another cutting-edge “innovation” of Italian legislation to combat organised crime. But these documents, despite being approved by the parliament, have all remained dead in the water due to the opposition of several member states, and despite constant requests from Europol and Eurojust – the EU’s police and judicial cooperation agencies.” Let’s call this: ‘all shout and no progress, welcome to the EU‘, or as we saw it in the US in the 70’s with their mafia cowboy senate events, all air and no prosecution. That is what we face and before we consider going after Zamira Hajiyeva, consider that politicians are enabling Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google to get away with hundreds times more then we could ever collect from the Hajiyeva family. Are you still wondering why government treasury coffers are so empty? So as we were treated in March to ‘The European Union will propose a 3% tax on digital revenue this week‘, the fact that it is below 10% should be hanging offense, a hanging offense for the majority of ALL EU politicians mind you. It is time to get serious, but we are shouting against a group of people who need that FAANG group for juicy connections down the road, so I do not believe that something actually will be achieved before 2030, and as the head of Facebook northern Europe, Steve Hatch gives us: ““By the end of 2018 we will employ 2,300 people in the UK and we are doubling our office space in London’s King’s Cross, with capacity for more than 6,000 workstations by 2022. “We have also changed the way we report tax so that revenue from customers supported by our UK teams is recorded in the UK and any taxable profit is subject to UK corporation tax.”“, we are already seemingly informed of an optional one year delay regarding cross border tax planning for Facebook. Funny how that would work out, is it not?

so when you read another headline like: ‘Fury as Starbucks pays just £4.5m tax on £162m profits‘, you might feel that there is a need for fury, also realise that there will be no results, not any day soon and that should anger you a lot more and the Labour side is just as guilty as the Conservatives are, I would claim that Labour is more guilty because at the dawn of the digital age they had the option to set up a fence from the very beginning and they decided not to do that, or claim to do and fail to do, whatever seems more correct to you.

So as you were contemplating how naughty some bankers are, consider how weak politicians have been for the longest times as billions that should have been collected got facilitated for and pushed to the board of directors of corporations in America (read: their ‘fat cat’ bonus).

In the end, we could use statistics and get creative, when we consider that between 1620 and 1725, women without brothers or sons to share their inheritance comprised 89 percent of the women executed for witchcraft in New England. When you consider that, do you still think that those witch trials in Salem were stupid and narrow minded? Perhaps they were in the end really creative in legislatively through allowed legal means, acquiring large shares of wealth, who was going to stop them? Perhaps Facebook with a: ‘share if you care’ option?

Nowadays we see that ‘criminal’ has become for the most a person who got convicted, because they did not have the right tax lawyer & barrister in his/her arsenal, how the times have changed. In this we merely have to hold a candle to the thoughts of Oscar Wilde who stated: “Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike“. So as our acceptance of wealth and money takes over, morality becomes a mere obstruction towards further gains.

I should have applied to Mossack Fonseca with my Law degree when I had the chance.

 

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The Corbynite manoeuvre

Yes, that was a Star Trek reference. I have learned a long time ago (in a galaxy far far away) that the classics must always be observed. In this, the Guardian brings us ‘Jeremy Corbyn: I was present at wreath-laying but don’t think I was involved‘. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/13/jeremy-corbyn-not-involved-munich-olympics-massacre-wreath-laying) gives us the setting that a British high end tool (I apologise, I meant leader of the Labour party) where he was at “a wreath-laying for individuals behind the group that carried out the Munich Olympic massacre“, so even if you dismiss the Steven Spielberg movie with Daniel Craig and Eric Bana. The setting to be in attendance of anything ‘honouring’ a terrorist organisation is just a huge no-no.

For most (including me) attending means ‘involved’. So with: “I don’t think I was actually involved in it“, the lamest of all excuses, I do believe that the politic funeral of Jeremy Corbyn should be soon, the sooner the better. The fact that Benjamin Netanyahu would be willing to talk to anyone within the Labour party at present should be regarded as a small miracle to say the least. The weak response we see with “I was there because I wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident” should clearly exclude the terrorists. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn would also like to attend the wreath laying of Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta in Hamburg (in a non-disclosed location) next month on September 11th as one of the pilots flying American Airlines Flight 11 into a building, or is that perhaps too soon?

How stupid does a politician need to get before he is found to be unfit for office? The Guardian also gives us: “Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement via his official Twitter account criticising the Labour leader. “The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone“, we could take this a step further and consider that Jeremy Corbyn might require diagnosis against optional existing mental health issues. I need to be careful here, as not to belittle the issue here. You see, when we look at Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition gives us elements like:

  • Exaggerated feelings of self-importance
  • Excessive need for admiration
  • Lack of empathy

From my personal perspective Jeremy checks all three settings here. Let it be an important fact that I am not a resident psychologist or practicing expert in this field, so it would need to be done by an actual person educated in that field.

My reason for this?

My perception of his ‘exaggerated feelings of self-importance’ was checked as he attended the event. He had no business being there. Why was he there in the first place? Attending a Palestinian event that had (as far as I can tell) no bearing on anything other then the Palestinian need for self-exposure to the media? The excessive need for admiration is not merely his attendance, the fact that he is in the foreground holding a wreath does that. Not merely that, the setting that it was in the Cemetery of the Martyrs of Palestine, that part alone should have been enough to avoid attendance and the fact that he decided to be there, as this was in regards to remembering the attack on a PLO Headquarters in Tunis, the PLO, who by its own definition ‘the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”‘ with a focus on violence aimed at Israeli civilians, that should have been a setting to seek any ‘conversation elsewhere’, preferably with others, like for example Benjamin Netanyahu, rumour has it that he makes a lovely cup of tea. The entire setting and the fact that he did not (intentionally or not) do his homework on what was there, who were there and perhaps talk to MI-6 before attending that place would not have been the worst idea either. The entire Black September part gives enough concern to the final part a ‘lack of empathy‘ with that, I believe my suspicions are clearly defined, yet as I also state, a professional needs to look at that. You know a (young) Freudian with a grey setting (with at least 50 shades).

The utter lack of the setting as I see it gives us a lot more to go on. It is not whether people are supportive of Palestine, or perhaps anti-Israel, is equally a question for most at present. The fact that we give support to those in support of terrorists is a lot harder to deal with in several settings. As we are given: “Corbyn, via his own Twitter feed, stepped up his response to Netanyahu. What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children,” the Labour leader wrote“, we should be able to see that this setting is wrong. There is lots of open source intelligence from many sides (and newspapers) in all this. the setting of ‘groups of mostly young men approached the border, rolling burning tires towards the fence to provide smoke screens, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in the direction of Israeli troops‘, so we get mayhem and Molotov cocktails (the ones you do not drink), so at that point, it is no longer a ‘peaceful protest‘ it is an intentional attack. PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah have forever used people as tools, to be human shields for their attacks. That goes back to the 80’s, some people just do not evolve, they merely continue until death.

In addition, Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar admitted in an interview “when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance’, we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support“, several sources give us that, and the fact that this ‘evidence’ was out there as early as May 16th makes the entire tweet by Jeremy Corbyn stupid, short sighted, reckless as well as another ego boost of self-importance via a social media proclamation, which is perhaps the one element where any politician gets a partial small pass on the setting of that stage. It is the unintentional flaw of most politicians of focusing too much on looking too good giving any statement and forgetting to contemplate what they are actually saying. I will admit that leagues of conservatives have gone that path before Jeremy Corbyn did.

There is one flicker of light that we see when Labour MP Luciana Berger states pretty much the same as I did. When we see Being ‘present’ is the same as being involved. When I attend a memorial, my presence alone, whether I lay a wreath or not, demonstrates my association and support. There can also never be a “fitting memorial” for terrorists. Where is the apology?”, we see a much clearer need for his replacement to step in, as well as additional evidence towards his lack of empathy. I remain a conservative, but I am happy that some politicians on the other isle can see the light of reality and logic.

I do not completely agree with Margaret Hodge. She states “the only way “Jeremy Corbyn can put this issue to bed” is to “adopt the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism in full”“, you see, that is a political hoop. If he cannot accept that from the get go he should not be in office. The entire setting of ‘put this issue to bed‘ is wrong as the setting was done; he has to live with it. The question soon becomes can anyone in Labour accept Jeremy Corbyn to stay where he is?

So how does this relate to Star Trek? The famous episode was about Poker (and bluffing), in this setting Jeremy has a mediocre hand, say, middle-pair or top-pair with a terrible kicker. This whilst the other players those needing the event at the Cemetery of the Martyrs of Palestine, Tunis, did not merely know that he had a bad hand, they already dealt themselves dead’s man hand, aces and eights, all whilst the hidden card would have been an intentional (read: pre-set) ace of hearts, making themselves ready for a party before the showdown even begins. The signs were there from the very start, the house always wins. It has been and always be a statistical certainty. Jeremy forgot whose house he was attending that day and can the UK afford someone THAT short sighted?

Sometimes it is not merely a hand of poker, sometimes it is knowingly holding the bank up for a bluff and on that day you do not want the wrong person to be playing that game with anyone’s future.

 

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Bridge or swim?

Last Saturday, one of the weirder pieces of news hit me. It was all about a garden bridge. Now, I have had my garden salads in my time, as well as crossing some ridges to get me to the garden salad in the first place. Yet what is this about the Garden Bridge? The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/29/joanna-lumley-attacks-sadiq-khans-scrapping-of-thames-garden-bridge), is giving us the goods with “Actor who devised proposal describes London mayor’s decision to pull financial backing for project as devastating”, which is a genuine feeling I reckon. What some might not get is “In a study of the project commissioned by city hall, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge found the bridge was likely to cost more than £200m, and that £37.4m of public funds had already been spent without any building work taking place” as well as “Osborne committed £60m of public funding to the scheme when he was in office. The Department for Transport has already given £30m and Transport for London contributed £30m, £20m of which structured as a loan”. I personally think that bridges are cool, so I would be on board of this. In my view the two issues here are:

  • Where did the £37.4m of public funds go towards?
  • Sadiq Khans carefully spoken words regarding the HS2.

The second part needs some explaining. Yes, we know that Sadiq Khan has had a few issues on the Highs Speed line in the past as well a now, yet finding ways to cut costs in a non maximum effect, whilst that invoice will surpass £56 billion is a stretch on both sides of the equation. Oh, and before we all get comfortable, I feel certain that after the elections certain issues will dissolve and the HS2 will quietly be implemented. All that to save half an hour to Manchester. In that regard, if the Garden Bridge is actually scrapped altogether, the issues on spending and certain issues that MP Margaret Hodge stated will need open investigations in the open light for everyone to scrutinise.

Now, we all agree that costs will be seen in one light or another and when the costs are set at 10%-25% differences, there are a few details to look at. Yet, as I see it, the difference between £60-£200 is far too wide to be something simple. I wonder who else this impacts, and in addition I would equally like to know what makes for the difference. I like in part the response that our little New Avenging ‘Purdey’ Lumley is giving us. Her link to 38p to al the people in the UK comes to nearly £200M and as such the initial £60 might seem nice, but that is less than half way. Still, should the bridge not be placed? In a need for more options to cross the bridge, more reasons to not take the car and rely on a healthy walk is good for London and it is even better for tourism. What is equally striking is that former coffer key holder George Osborne was willing to go where the UK labour party is not. Even as from my early point of view, a bridge could be regarded as a drain on empty coffers, so not spending too unwisely is a great idea. In this I should be on the Labour side for a change. Even as Sadiq Khan is the person linked to a set of experts trying to save 60 street markets, in that I wonder how much these experts cost and why street markets are under scrutiny in the first place. In all this it is the bridge that suffers the consequence.

Yet in all honesty it is the response from Khan that requires consideration as well. “It is concerning that a huge amount of effort and expenditure has been expended on other aspects of the project when there is a real possibility that agreement will not be reached before the expiry of planning permission, or at all.

That reads like some people have been selling the ham without slicing the pig and now there is an issue. As I see it, there is an issue on more than one level, which directly gets us to the point of where the wasted £37.4 million went. Which is a valid pressing argument in public spending. And anyone who comes with the response that it is a ‘complex question’ should be stricken from any public spending consideration for life. You see, when I initially saw the article, my mind went straight back to he Guy Ritchie movie RocknRolla. As I personally see it one of Guy’s weirder views on London, yet entertaining and with an awesome cast. I am not implying that this is all linked to corruption, I am merely asking if the bridge process had not been set up to fail from the beginning and the funds offerings were not just there to appease a political climate at the initial time from going into the wrong direction. Is that such a weird question?

The elderly population might have been sussed to sleep as Jimi Mistry had his time on Coronation Street, yet the real world is neither that nor is it East-enders. London is a weird amalgamate of Citizens, Residents, Immigrants and Tourists. These CRITters make up for the life force of London and Bridges are part of this, in addition, with each bridge new areas of London are raised in value, awareness and investment opportunity. The question becomes, who benefits from those parts, perhaps the wrong players? All questions that are not asked, not shown and not considered. Merely the £60M question, what more does it need to build a bridge?

I wonder what happens when Joanna Lumley starts comparing this openly next to the billions the HS2 is swallowing, how long until a few construction players ‘suddenly’ find a way to get both made a reality? At that point, should we get cautious and ask a whole lot of questions, or should we quietly celebrate the victory of a Garden Bridge becoming reality?

I am not sure on what path would be the better one to take, yet in all this I feel that a first nail has been driven into the coffin showing that Sadiq Khan has a few agenda points that should raise questions and awareness on what he actually wants for London, actually I wonder what the view of Ken ‘red’ Livingstone is on that bridge. No matter if he is if favour or against. His point of view and especially ‘the why’ seems to be a question that I want to see from other former Mayors. Perhaps it is I who saw the issues wrong and he would side with Sadiq Khan on very valid reasons. I just like to keep an open mind, yet in all this, if I had to consider either the bridge at the max of £200M or a dubious HS2 at £58B, I know what I would choose and it would not be that expensive choo-choo solution.

 

 

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Matt Damon’s Quote

You could wonder what Matt Damon has been up to, there will always be reason to do this, not because he is an exceptional actor, even a celebrity on Mars. No, the reason here is his connection to documentaries. He was the narrator on ‘Inside Job‘, which got a well-deserved Oscar in 2011. I personally feel that this is the best documentary on the financial crises ever created. So let’s get started. Today, we see a number of news items reach the twilight of dawn.

The first one (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/panama-papers-22-people-face-tax-evasion-investigations-in-uk), gives us ‘Panama Papers: 22 people face tax evasion investigations in UK‘, with the added text “Philip Hammond also said a further 43 wealthy individuals were under review while their links to the offshore files were investigated further. He made the comments in a written answer to the House of Commons explaining what had happened since the offshore tax files emerged“. Now we might go all huffy and puffy on these tax evaders, yet when you consider the news from August (at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-31/ex-tesco-finance-chief-mcilwee-probe-closed-by-u-k-regulator), where we see “The U.K. accounting regulator closed an investigation into Tesco Plc’s former Chief Financial Officer, Laurie McIlwee, saying there wasn’t a “realistic prospect” that misconduct would be found in the case“, with the added “The Financial Reporting Council closed its case into McIlwee Wednesday, according to a statement from the regulator. It is still investigating the grocer’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and other individuals involved in Tesco’s accounts“.

This has been going on since 2014, they have not been able to find anything after two years and now you are going after ‘simple’ tax evaders?

My initial message (with all due respect) to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is “Mr Philip Hammond, are you out of your bloody mind?” You are still trying to get anything real on PwC, or were you ordered to let it die down?

When a company suddenly loses billions in value (also due to their own stupidity) and you cannot find anyone to prosecute and go to jail for overstating profits by £263 million ($345 million), whilst we also know that for that year PwC gave Tesco a 10 million pound invoice for auditing (annual) with an additional 3 million pounds for consultancy that year (Source: the Guardian). You cannot find anything and now you are going after people, where you cannot state whether they broke the law and you will rely on illegally obtained papers. How stupid is this?

How about you making the following change as per immediate!

a. Until the Tesco case has been satisfied, PwC and its senior employees cannot undersign any accountancy venue, or corporate balance for any UK corporation for 2016, 2017 and 2018 until the matter is solved.
b. In case wrongdoing by PwC employees is proven beyond reasonable doubt, PwC will not be allowed to operate within the UK.

How about them apples?

So far we have seen massive leeway by the press and the SFO has not achieved anything at all regarding Tesco. So it is time to adjust regulations and legal premises, until that point comes PwC will have to operate on non-British companies. Now, we can all understand that when we see the quote “McIlwee resigned as Tesco’s CFO in April 2014, prior to the discovery of the accounting errors, amid reports of disagreements with then-Chief Executive Officer Philip Clarke” seems to imply that McIlwee was not privy to, and not guilty of any wrongdoings, yet the fact that the SFO got nowhere in two years means that there is something massively wrong. When we know that so many millions were overstated, we seem to have a decently clear case of fraud, yet no one goes to jail. In addition, we also know that PwC was in on it (at least to some degree) and in addition, the subsequent Deloitte investigation showed more than initially was found means that there is no scenario where PwC can be absent from guilt in the first or second degree.

The SFO gave that Carl Rogberg, Christopher Bush and John Scouler were charged (source: BBC), they pleaded not guilty and at present the court dates are set for September 2017. It is my opinion that until all that is settled, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no business whatsoever to dig into cases based on illegally obtained papers, whilst his branch as well as the SFO has no flipping ability at present to close a 2 year old case for at least another year (if ever). And as reported by the Times in September (at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/tesco-auditor-slips-back-into-retailers-aisles-0gm9xt8md) that “Tesco has appointed PwC as an independent adviser, despite replacing it as auditor with Deloitte“, which gives my emotional and slightly inappropriate response “Are you fucking kidding me?

So, whilst the PwC issues were kept very low key by nearly all the press, whilst there is no condemnation on a daily basis by the press and even less success by the SFO, we should agree that PwC has no business being in the UK to begin with, especially as “Last week the FRC cleared Laurie McIlwee, Tesco’s former chief financial officer, of wrongdoing over the scandal, but added that its investigation into PwC and other unnamed individuals continued“, we could go by once bitten twice shy, or we could go by the fact that as the SFO is either unable or unwilling to prosecute PwC, why would we even consider their presence? In case some are considering a specific rebuttal, to them I would respond with the April article (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/apr/14/brexit-could-lead-to-loss-of-100000-financial-services-jobs-report-warns), where they stated ‘PwC report estimates 70,000-100,000 fewer jobs in 2020 compared with estimated number if Britain stays in EU‘, so let’s start with theirs and let smaller accountancy firms continue and allow for growth. In addition, when we accept the news by the BBC in Feb 2015 (at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31147276), where we see “We believe that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s activities represent nothing short of the promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale,” said Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)“, so in that light, we could just send PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) packing, giving light that the facilitator of tax evasion have been dismissed from the country and as such the UK will see a decline in Tax evasion, no need for illegally held papers, no long and expensive investigation and the thorn in the UK economies side is equally removed. It will not mean that tax evasion is a thing of the past, but if PwC is send packing now, the other three might do a 180 degree on that clientele, which would at that point make the tax evasion issue moot, or at least deprive it from many options, which would amount to the same in the end.

So, you like apples?

If I am accused from persecuting PwC, then I would plead that I am not entirely innocent in that regard. I would bring the defence that the SFO has not gotten anywhere in 2 years and they are supposed to have the ability to find those culprits. Yet, as John Crace pointed out in the Guardian on April 5th that “Only last year, the public accounts committee reported that the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was promoting tax avoidance on an industrial scale. To make things worse, it was first in the frame to benefit from administering the windup of Tata’s steel operations in the UK. So where was David Cameron? At PwC’s offices in Birmingham. Some might call it a brave choice“, in that light, there is an additional reason to give PwC their walking papers.

In all this the exchequer has one final issue to deal with, you see, accountant at large, including (read: especially) those at PwC are really clever with what they do, meaning that there could be no broken laws to begin with, making the actions from certain parties from 2014 until 2018 even more questionable, with a strong need to truly scrutinise the rules that accountancy firms applied and how they were applied. As I see it, there is nothing worse than to paint a lovely target on a person only to learn that the laws fell short and none were ever broken. If you question that, then consider the following two options.

  1. The SFO has, as it embraced corruption onto a new level decided not to dig into PwC on the levels needed to secure evidence for the prosecution regarding Tesco.
  2. The SFO has found that even as it is clear that PwC assisted in these levels of Fraud and Misreporting, yet when the books and memos were investigated for these transgressions, there was more than a reasonable doubt that PwC was not fully aware, in addition, there are no papers filed by PwC to implicate them in any way in fraud or misrepresentation. As well as the established fact that no laws were broken at present.

When you look at the two options, which one is more likely than not the situation regarding PwC?

In my book, the fact that a person is not guilty, does not mean that they are innocent. I remain of mind that shutting PwC down in the UK is not the worst idea at present, yet is that point of view valid when we consider premise 2, which is actually the most likely scenario? When we consider that the spirit of the law has been violated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, at that point we still have the issue that no literal laws were broken. Here we could set forth that the government (read: parliament) created the foundations and the setting where industrialised tax evasion and fraud became legalised options. Even as we saw that there was a clear case for fraud, the law has been altered to the degree that the facilitators cannot be held accountable, as such, an issue was created and until that is resolved, and PwC cannot be prosecuted (which is wrong in many ways from the point of a simple taxpaying labourer).

So, we now have the issue of the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law, which should be seen as grammatical opposites, not just in grammar, it is that they are also opposites of the soul (read: soul of the law). When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not necessarily the intent of those who wrote the law. Which is what black letter lawyers (and accountants) tend to do, because a nation of laws is about a nation with rules of playing the game. In our case, in Common Law, until a case is set as a precedent in law, there will be no adjustment and this can go on ‘ad infinitum’ and Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language (at times a mere comma does the trick too).

Yet, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording, which could get them automatically prosecuted if the District Attorney woke up on a Monday morning with a really foul mood.

So, whilst we might agree with Margaret Hodge, stating “We believe that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s activities represent nothing short of the promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale“, the fact that they are not breaking the law, implies that no corrections to the law have been made to correct for this. As such, you only have yourself to blame and admittance of this failure to the public at large is an essential second step. As I see it, making a lot of noise going after people who might have done something like this, whilst papers are absent and whilst all parties know that this is because of illegally obtained papers from the law firm Mossack Fonseca is even less intelligent, as the people behind this have leaked these papers for their own personal interest and ‘late taxation’ was not their goal, so to adhere to the promotion of such crimes is not the best way to get results.

Now that we see claims rising towards Tesco for misrepresentation from their investors for the amount of £100 million, which comes on top of the diminished value, so I feel that no matter what, there should be a negative impact on PwC one way or another, yet within the confines of the law of course. This takes us to ‘The letter versus the spirit of the law: A lay perspective on culpability‘ by Stephen M. Garcia, Patricia Chen and Matthew T. Gordon (paper here). The part that gives us the cakes are found in study 5 on page 486. “Study 5 sought to examine another instance in which the letter of the law is not broken but the spirit of the law may have been violated“, which is where I for the most stand with PwC in the Tesco matter as stated “We also wanted to control for various counter-explanations that underlie culpability such as violations of social and moral norms“, with references to Bicchieri & Chavez, 2010 as well as Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008. Yet in the first there is Tonry, 2010, where he argues that “the foundations for disparity causing policy choices lie in the cultural and social forces that combined historically to shape U.S. society“, which is interesting as this implies that the policymaker and not PwC is the actual culprit and my rage was misguided. Yet, is that actually true? The spirit of the law is not equipped, or better stated should not be equipped to manage the input of self-interest, because the spirit of the will assume the setting for all people and as such will force the text and derail the letter of the law (as I see it). Tonry goes on into the racial destabilising side, yet in my view the racial part is not the real instance, I believe that the division is that we see two groups One is the (white) social enabled group who is set to the game with preparation (read: legal advice) to break the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law as long as self-interests are served. This setting will at that same time destabilise the (black) group, a group that is suffocating on the lack and lapse of social options and opportunities, where without proper and affordable advice the letter and the spirit of the law will be adhered to, yet at a massive cost through loss of opportunity. This now makes PwC a facilitator for the wealthy to avoid breaking the letter of the law and to optionally, when unavoidable adhere to the spirit of the law. From one point, can the facilitator be held to account? I believe so, yet the area is slightly too grey for my comfort. It is the policymaker that requires to shift the grey area, so that breaking the law is a more clear setting and as such the SFO could actually create a situation where conviction (let alone prosecution) becomes a reality.

I still believe that PwC has done great wrongs, yet as far as we can establish, not in the letter of the law. I find them guilty of knowingly set the stage for managed ‘breaking’ of the law. The spirit is as much a factor as the letter, either should be seen as breaking the law. Yet there is diminishment as the policymaker is seemingly also guilty, yet the reasoning for that flaw can never be easily determined, so we can tell it was wrong, yet to what degree is not a given, but an essential issue to address. When we look at the policymakers, we need to ascertain the application that the paper discusses. “This framework broaches a new language to understand complex situations such as those that are not technically illegal but seem wrong“, we can see that this applies to multiple incidents. In those cases it needs to be clear that these levels of protection do not make the cake edible. It makes for a sour venue where those with legal advice can abort too many payments whilst the underprivileged groups end up without support, protection and options. I am speculating here that this is the (read: speculated intentional) creation of the haves and have not, which is a policy drip down effect when you implement a prismatic system, which policymakers from business and sociological fields seemed to have resorted to as they (tried to) implement laws, on the premise of a non-legal mind. Which is what is pushing the issues. The political field needed the business view of opportunity and the resulting laws are toothless against larger corporations who end up getting a free pass here with PwC as the facilitating office.

In the end I am more correct than even I thought I was, yet this should not digress from handing out the penalties that are needed to give a clear signal that the party is over. We have learned the hard way from 2004 onwards that unless we make a massive shift, this will continue a few more decades, as such stronger language and harsher penalties are required, because continuing on this path is far too rewarding for all the players that can afford to play this game, which gave me the idea to give PwC their marching orders out of the UK. I don’t believe it is too harsh, especially as they made 35 billion last year alone. So the question to you becomes, do you have any idea how much taxation they paid? I have no idea how much exactly, but we do know that PwC was elemental in avoiding Lehman Brothers to pay an addition £1.2 billion in taxation, due to inconsistencies, we see the quote by Mr Justice Hildyard: “It is of real importance, both in terms of good governance and a fair market, that HMRC should make every effort to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again“, (at http://www.theweek.co.uk/lehman-brothers/77510/lehman-brothers-creditors-to-avoid-12bn-tax-bill) giving rise that larger changes are needed to bring back fairness to all tax paying people, who have not seen a whole lot of fairness in that regard these last 12 years.

Judges will soon have to science the shit out of these tax laws, making them actually fair to all, not just large corporations, who seem to be judged on ‘the Principle of least accountability’.

 

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They don’t know what they do!

The article started funny enough. The headline ‘Leaked universal credit memo shows jobcentre staff struggling with rollout’ gave me a clear indication that this is another one of these, let’s get into a world we do not understand (at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/oct/27/universal-credit-leaked-memo-scheme-rollout).

I admit that my words here are presumptuous, but I have seen this before, to be honest many of us have seen this before. There was the NHS with 14 billion plus wasted and there were a few other projects, all gone down the drain. So, why can’t some people get their act together?

The first quote is likely the most offensive one, especially in my eyes: “The DWP had promised to have 1 million people on the scheme by April 2014 but, dogged by delays and tens of millions of pounds of IT write-downs and write-offs, the original timetable has been scrapped. Just 15,000 people are on the system“, you think what is wrong with this picture. Consider a $389 notebook, not a great piece of equipment, but I can install a variety of SQL products and have these filled with a database containing the population data of Poland in about an hour, so why do we see a system with only 15,000 records? (intentional trivialisation was used here)

When we get to the timeline (which by the way was not chronological), we see several issues. Let us take a look at them.

28th April 2013 – Trial begins for Universal credit (UC), which is covered in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/mar/31/liberal-conservative-coalition-conservatives)

Universal credit introduced.
The new in- and out-of-work credit, which integrates six of the main out-of-work benefits, will start to be implemented this April in one jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester. The aim is to increase incentives to work for the unemployed and to encourage longer hours for those working part-time. It had been intended that four jobcentres would start the trial in April, but this has been delayed until July, and a national programme will start in September for new claimants. They will test the new sanctions regime and a new fortnightly job search trial, which aims to ensure all jobseeker’s allowance and unemployment claimants are automatically signed onto Job Match, an internet-based job-search mechanism. Suspicion remains that the software is not ready.

The issues are as follows:

  1. Will start to be implemented this April‘, this means that the system had been prototyped, this means that the software has been tested and that the interface has been tested by users, so that a nearly clean version goes online.
  2. The information ‘Suspicion remains that the software is not ready‘, should have been a very clear indication that the brakes had to be applied and at this point, investigations on the entire track should have commenced.

24th May 2013 The Major Projects Authority review expresses serious concerns about the department having no detailed “blueprint” and transition plan for UC (at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/24/universal-credit-danger-failing-whitehall-review)

Universal credit in danger of failing, official Whitehall review says
The first official government admission that Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship plans to remake the welfare state has hit trouble emerged on Friday night when the Cabinet Office’s review of all major Whitehall projects branded the universal credit programme as having fallen into “amber-red” status, a category designating a project in danger of failing.

You think? How about, the issues shown after a month when there were already doubts we see an utter lack of commitment, there is no other way to describe it. When I see the quote “Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, hailed the publication: ‘Major projects need scrutiny and support if we are to succeed in the global race’“, which in my book comes across as ‘only silent scrutiny is allowed. This project is too big‘, which in my eyes is nothing less than a joke, one the taxpayer is paying for by the way. I must also clarify that this is how I initially read it, not how Francis Maude stated it, he seems to want accountability, so do I, it is just too convenient that many involved are not named at all.

In addition we see “An MPA rating of amber-red will anger the DWP, which has insisted that universal credit is on time and on budget” furthermore we see “Data has been exempted from only 21 projects in the review by the Major Projects Authority (MPA), where disclosure would damage commercial interests or national security“.

So now we get the following:

  1. Who at the DWP had made that statement? We want to see his name and his dismissal; I say again dismissal, not his resignation.
  2. Was the same person making the claims in regards to October 2013? This means that we were at that point faced with two delays on a pretty expensive endeavour. More important, until now, there has been a slacking handle on this project, which is likely to be only one of many.

Now we look at two events:

5th September 2013 A National Audit Office report reveals ministers have written off £34m on failed IT programmes and the launch may be delayed beyond 2017 (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/sep/05/david-cameron-24bn-universal-credit-problems), where we see ‘David Cameron’s £2.4bn universal credit project riddled with problems‘, so the entire UC is more than just a few pennies and we are not seeing any accountability, no criminal charges and no product. We can look at the quote, which is “The National Audit Office said universal credit, the £2.4bn project meant to consolidate six welfare payments into one, has been beset by ‘weak management, ineffective control and poor governance’“, I am about to call it something else entirely.

31st October 2013 The Guardian reveals ministers have been presented with a radical plan to restart UC and write off £119m of work over the past three years (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/31/universal)

Now we see the following additional quotes “Ministers attempting to put the troubled universal credit welfare reform programme back on track have been presented with a radical plan to restart the scheme and write off £119m of work over the past three years” and “The risk assessment warns that the plan to start again, the ‘design and build’ web-based scheme, is ‘unproven … at this scale’“. It says the plan to fix three years of work on universal credit is still “not achievable within the preferred timescales“, describing it as unrealistic”

These two give us the following:

  1. If we revisit “In March 2013 Duncan Smith told parliament that universal credit ‘is proceeding exactly in accordance with plans’“, then why on earth is Duncan Smith in any government building? If we look at statements from Margaret Hodge and the NAO, there is a clear indication that extreme sanitisation is needed at the DWP, the fact that this multi-billion pound fiasco is still around at that time should give cause to many serious questions.

Just to make sure the reader understands the gravity of this situation, the bungling and wasting of resources at that point could have given nearly every current university student a FREE University degree, which is saying a lot, in addition, those studying IT, might have completed the project for the price of their education, which is saying a lot!

  1. Writing off 119 million of work delivered. A failure is not work delivered, who was minding the stores, the contracts as well as the targets that had to be met? The fact that the amount in the database at present (15,000 people) could have been achieved with a $99 program called Microsoft Access, so can we have the 118,999,901 back please?

When we revisit the September quote “The DWP said the department would continue with the planned reform and was committed to delivering it on time by 2017 and within budget“, we can clearly see that either the DWP has no clue what it was doing, or we have another echelon of people and their ‘goals‘ messing things up.

Are my assumptions valid? Well, so far I did not waste billions, so I am inclined to say yes!

By the way, who did the original costing, who presented the plan and what remains of the initial plan? Because a blowout of these proportions should be regarded as clear evidence that the thought might have been nice, but none of the deciding parties had any clue on what was being decided on (my evidence here are the squandered billions as we see them melting away).

You see, in the old days, in my life, designing a database system was relatively simple. It took 5 weeks and a few iterations of tweaking to get the customer this container system. It worked like a charm! That is what is needed here. People have been overcomplicating things by massive portions.

  1. Web based solution.
    Really? With all the intrusions, phishing and other forms of malignant issues, you are going to a web based option? Let’s be clear, this system is all about letters and numbers, so an ASCII based system, which in the old days it was called a DOS program. In this situation a UNIX solution should be sought, but the overall idea is clear. In addition, UNIX is much safer, better protected and scripting allows for evolution when needed. I knew a guy once, who created a scripted solution for product distribution for a global Fortune 500 company, it was one of the few innovative software solutions that actually worked and worked when most systems had to be upgraded, it worked on a Pentium 1 with 90 MHz, a system we now buy for $49 (if even for that much), It conversed with several dozens of locations.

Now, today, when we look at the UC, something bigger is needed, but the systems of yesterday are already 2000 times stronger than the initial system it was designed on, so we can clearly see that the spending of a few billion require a deeper digging, as well as a serious interview by the members of the House of Commons towards the involved members of the DWP.

  1. more web-based system
    The risk assessment, dated 11th October, says the plan for a faster, more web-based system would involve writing off £119m of previous work, and cost the DWP £96m to develop. However, it warns ministers that they will have no idea if the web-based system will work until the summer of 2014 ‘when it is live for 100 claimants’

And the laughter just does not stop here, ‘more’ web based system? The people here did not learn the first time? If you want speed, consider simple ASCII, with perhaps local formatted XML. You see, you get loads of characters across in mere milliseconds (36 characters including 10 numbers tends to be fast), and let us not forget, this is all set towards 6 systems, so you need speed. So only this summer was there any chance of knowing anything, so can we wonder again where the money went, because someone is getting pretty rich here and it is not me (alas).

In these two issues we see a reiterated failure, which gives a clear signal that the original design, which would have been BEFORE money was spend, should not have passed any hurdles as I see it.

When I think ANY project I see the following

  1. request
  2. design
  3. prototype
  4. finalise
  5. test
  6. implement

Now, I will admit that a large project needs a lot more, but these 6 steps for the initial trial should have been done in 90 days for 7 tests. One test of each system and the 7th to see one person collected on all 6 systems. Now we have a master that gets us trials where this simple program could be used to star testing everywhere and see if data comes across, yes, this is nowhere near finished, but in the foundation we see what happens if the data of 150,000 people gets requested, so now we know that data can be obtained and we see a timeline of speed and more important bandwidth, because that will be the killer. If we revisit the original time line where the plan was offered in October 2010, which means that this test could have been done before Christmas, so how was time and money wasted, because as we see the Multi Billion pound bill that would be the direct question evolving from this.

The complications
Yes, I am not ignoring this. A system with this much data access will need all levels of security and encryption, there is no denying this, yet using a ‘web-based’ approach seems to me that we might as well give a copy of all this data to the cyber criminals. There are always suite options of security, and yes that needs work, yet some local test could have been made, in addition, a system this vast will need all kind of implementation servers and trained support staff, steps that were not even anywhere near implementing, were they costed for?

When we see the timeline and the involvement from ‘interested’ parties, I cannot stop but wonder what could have been if the right people had sat down, because those involved screwed the pooch big time and the taxpayer can see the billions they have to cough up for a system that never worked.

We will end with three quotes all from the October 27th 2014 article.

  1. leaked Whitehall documents warned of a failing IT system, more than £1m in wasted expenditure, and how only 25,000 claimants would likely to be served by the system by the general election next year.
  2. The government has written off or written down £130m on the project, which is designed to revolutionise the culture around claiming benefits. It now expects 100,000 people to be on the system by May 2015 and for 100 centres to be involved in its delivery by the end of this year.
  3. When fully rolled out, UC will make 3 million families better off by £177 a month and lift up to 300,000 children out of poverty.”

From the three points we get the following, if the system is turning nuts and bolts at present when there are between 25,000 and 100,000, what complications will we see when the other 2.95 million are added, if we see the issues with less than 4% populated, what happens when the other 96% is added?

When we see the quote in regards to a couple not getting paid, whilst in addition changing their details took three months, we can conclude form the quote “The DWP said the couple’s claim had been delayed because the pair had failed to complete the correct forms. Responding to Dispatches’ findings, a spokesman told the Guardian: ‘Universal credit’s IT system is robust and effective, and we have trained 26,300 work coaches who are successfully providing new support to claimants to help them better prepare for work’“, well if there are 26,300 work coaches and there are currently 25,000 in the system, why did it take three months to correct this? In addition, how come the wrong forms were filled in, what was the cause of that? Should the system not have reported (almost immediately) that the forms did not constitute their current social status/predicament?

This is more than a simple failing; this system seems to lack basic foundations, especially with three months delays.

The sad part is that this is not the first issue we see, when we consider the NHS debacle which I discussed in ‘the second exploitation‘ on August 10th, how the NHS options resulted in a wasted 15 billion, whilst no one seems to take a deeper look at how such large amounts get wasted. Now with the UC we see a similar development, it would be so nice for someone in Whitehall to recognise the need for actual change so that squandering might be minimised be a lot more then it currently is.

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Taxation Lost, John Milestone

High on a Throne of Royal State, which far outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand showers on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold,

This is pretty much the beginning of book 2 by John Milton where Satan debates whether another battle should be waged on the recovery of heaven. I would state, that if I was back in his employ at his right side (and no longer medicated), then heaven would no longer exist, such is the folly of man!

In that same light we could see the article that sky News showed today at http://news.sky.com/story/1181132/govt-losing-a-staggering-55bn-a-year-in-taxes. It’s title “Govt Losing A ‘Staggering’ £55bn A Year In Taxes“. It seems nice that someone is waking up, but let us not forget that this is something that had been going on for some time. It is nice to bring up Stemcor at times like these. Especially as this company is in hands of the family of labour MP Margaret Hodge who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Let’s not forget, before we nail her to some cross, that WE (actually you Britons) enabled all this. She and her family broke no laws. Has there been an abundance of letters to the MP’s of local voters demanding a stop to tax evasion? No there were not!

So it is nice to read in that article the following “PAC chairman Margaret Hodge said: ‘It is staggering that, in one year, the public sector was defrauded of over £20bn and the tax gap rose to £35bn.’” Is it truly so staggering? Her own company paid less than 0.1% in taxation. It boiled down to 14 million pounds over 2.1 billion generated business (as suggested by the Telegraph, which is not the best of sources). The Stemcor website had this to say (http://www.stemcor.com/Response%20to%20further%20allegations%20of%20tax%20avoidance%20in%20the%20UK%20press.aspx).
I can go with that! I accept that turnover is not a sign of profit, the numbers in my mind do not seem to add up, but I lack the data to confirm or deny this, so for now, let’s move on.

This is because the reasoning I hold is in play as we read the next quote “However, the committee said its credibility had been undermined by the ‘poor quality’ of some of the data and the Treasury needed to do more to explain the discrepancies between some of the figures in the WGA and those produced by the Office for National Statistics.

I reckon that the quality of data from some of these sources have been in question for some time. That is a side I do have knowledge on. You see, these views always involve several parties talking (discussing and disagreeing) and in retrospect, when we take a look at the numbers and the data that was needed, we all end up wondering why certain data was never collected. When you play the game in only submitting what was ‘exactly’ asked, we end up looking at three iterations of ‘miscommunication’ and we end up with results that do not help to the degree it should; there is little doubt that certain numbers are not available. So, when we consider the Stemcor answer in regards to their 1% of profit in consideration of turnover versus profit, then we should take a look at a random example.

Let us take a software company. They have a program for sale at $1000. The customer wants it, they need training and they need some assistance (read: consultancy). So a package deal is made. The training and consultancy add to almost $750, so the salesperson makes that $1500 package deal as he gave a 25% discount on the program. Yet, their HQ abroad states that $1000 goes to their HQ and the rest is for the local office (which is $500 at this point). Now, $500 does not pay for all the costs, but for the local office it does not matter, they get paid and they never notice it, the CFO makes it all match and that office has close to 0% profit as the turnover and the costs cancel each other out. So, yes! We understand that some places have little turnover, but how are the costs and the deals managed and registered? At no point any laws were broken, yet when we consider this, tax is still evaded.

This is part of the game that the corporate icons play. It is all legal and no laws are broken. Yet, who benefits from all those millions? I remain on the fence in many cases. I believe that the hard worker should make more, that the innovator deserves to get rich, however we all do have to pay our taxes (even though it hurts in many cases). It is that part that is so lacking. Weirdly enough, the tax office seem to hunt down the little people, whilst chunks of corporate city London (and New York and LA and…) seem to push it all across borders and attend sales conferences in 5 star luxury resorts. Google, Amazon and Apple are the visible players, but that list is long and very distinguished. How about those dozens of software vendors (and companies with such a setup) with offices all over the place? How much gets pushed to other places?

That part needs to be dealt with and it is nice that Margaret Hodge is fighting this battle, yet is she getting it done? This is not about her, but I am questioning the data collectors who should have been on top of this LONG BEFORE Miss Hodge got the visibility. Who is guiding them to collect and sift through the data that is collected? Who decides on the questions that need to be asked? To me, that seems to be the gravy train that many wants to board and no one wants to rock, because those corporate supporters get a taste of the real sweet life. They are not in the limelight, but they get access to the real VIP events, get access to the best schools for their kids and life in the places many only dream of. They are the people behind the curtains. Perhaps MP Hodge needs to take a second look and rip away certain curtains, it might be quite a revealing view and a show the press would love to behold.

 

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Tax evasion, copyrighted by Vodafone?

If we look at copyright in the UK, then according to the UK copyright service, which states that “In the case of business ideas, it is again the recorded work rather than an intangible idea that is protected. Copyright would apply to items such as written documents, artwork, etc. – i.e. a Business plan, promotional literature, website, logo, and such items could certainly be registered.”

From that point of view, the creative tax efforts by Vodafone could be seen as an original work of ‘art’ (by lack of a better word), yet are they alone and are they really the first?

Yes, there is so much frustration in voices of people all around me as I hear them complain about the too fast rising cost of living. The fact that I saw an article last week in a newspaper stating that the minimum income for getting a mortgage in London now exceeds a million pounds, which I reckon is some new record to fight. So as many, who dream of a place around Swiss Cottage or Bond street (to keep the Lord’s Cricket grounds within walking distance), we see that this new price tag makes London an affordable place, mainly for Bankers and dealers in amphetamine based chemicals and that is pretty much it. So when these realities hit us and we see that a deal is struck with Vodafone for hundreds of millions of revenue (for the goal of non-taxability) made by what was described as an empty office in Ireland, waves of anger hit many people. This could be seen as a sign that the rich will get richer, at the expense of everyone else.

But is that the actual truth? It seems more a sign of the time than anything else. Vodafone is in pretty good company. They are actually one of the smaller players when we consider grocery shop sized companies like Google and Amazon. It gets to be a lot more hilarious listening to MP Margaret Hodge complaining about it to Google (in May 2013), whilst she is directly connected through family to Stemcor who is having the very same artistic approach to the payment of taxation (or lack thereof). The Telegraph in November 2012 reported that Stemcor, which reported revenue around 2.1 billion with a reported profit of 65 million paid a mere 163,000 pounds in taxation.

Whoever came up with that idea was worth his weight in gold and gemstones in the eye of these corporations.

It does not end there and it goes far beyond the borders of the UK. Consider the following. A software company has an item prices at ‘X’ and then adds consultancy valued at ‘Y’ and the total being ‘Z’ is charged.

So let us take a basic approach. The customer wants the package which requires software and a consultant and is willing to pay 100, consultancy is set at the basic price of 80, which means if the disc could be valued at 20, the price is met, and as such the customer is a new and happy customer. Yet, the books would reveal that even though 100 is truly placed in the books (as a package deal), the disc value is now set at 70 and the consultants at 30, 100 remains the fixed set price. It is interesting that the 70 is set towards the foreign owner of the program and a value of 30 remains behind. Of course the consultant was more (a lot more) expensive, and as this is all within one corporation the consultant will get his monthly income. Yet, was there a case of tax evasion?

It becomes an interesting debate, more important, it becomes the environment of global corporations and even more interesting is where the revenue and taxable revenue should be placed. I would share the view that this is more than a sign of the times; it is now fast becoming THE sign of the future.

In the age of technology today, many government types (PM, MP’s and exchequers alike) might look at certain developments of ‘new technology’ moves, as corporations go to the cloud and digital distribution, yet there seems an apparent lack of ‘comprehension’ is not the right word, perhaps it is ‘realisation’ that all these revenues would no longer be taxable and Microsoft is not even close to being a frontrunner. At present Adobe is far in the lead there. Consider all these advertising and publications houses, they are in abundance in the UK and those houses have moved to some extent, or are largely moving to the Adobe creative cloud, software, that is no longer sold in the UK, costs that are paid for in the UK and are therefore tax deductable revenue, which is shrinking the UK government revenue pie chart by a lot, especially as revenue from the other side of that equation is no longer in the UK for any level of taxation.

Whether we realise it or not, the old tax deduction scheme was designed on some level of equilibrium. We had tax deductions on one side, because we bought certain items like hardware and software. Hardware is now no longer the expensive post it used to be and the software part that is still steep in some cases is no longer bought, it is leased. As such the equilibrium is gone and a nation cannot continue on one side to hand out deductions as the other side of the scale no longer exists. This gives us two dangers. The first is that certain parts would lose deductibility as the other side stops existing; this should be seen in the light that the cost of business is going up, whilst revenues will not get better. This approach is set by the bulk of cloud providing ‘solutions’ and that group is growing really fast. If the UK government (not just them) loses out on taxable revenues exceeding 15 billion pounds on software alone, where will they get the money from? When we consider the trillion pound debt, then we should worry about such changes and it is not just the UK who is facing them. These companies as mentioned before are doing this on a global scale, which means that Europe is getting hit hard all over the place and it is not unlikely that as cloud servers are placed all over the planet these companies will move into new group that could be labelled as ‘the global non-taxable core of corporations’.

In the past I proclaimed strongly that when we saw the information about Microsoft with their Xbox One approach and the cloud was not about gamers. Gamers do not warrant the implementations of over 300,000 servers. Yet, add the earlier mentioned events to the equation and we end up with a global customer base of software and as Microsoft stated it themselves, an entertainment provider of TV, Movies and Software, all in the cloud! As we see the situation now, likely less than one tenth of a percent might end up being taxable. In that same light should you wonder why NTT DoCoMo was so happy to get into the Indian market, then here is the evidence. Out of a very rough estimation (by me) of a total value of entertainment products that is cloud distributable which exceeds 350 billion (business and entertainment products), consider that these products would in future yield less than 0.5 billion in tax revenue on a global scale. This means that national infrastructures on a global scale are about to get hit really hard (unlikely before 2014). So as NTT DoCoMo starts streaming 4G based entertainment solutions, a massive amount of taxable revenue would no longer end up being taxable at all. So long Tax department of India!

It was exactly for these reasons that I advocated an approach where taxability of services are charged on the consumers side, to avoid the pitfall many governments are about to get faced with. That approach would end the dangers of Google, Amazon, Vodafone et al to walk away with a ‘non-taxability’ based commission solution.

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