A beginner's guide to the art of tax avoidance

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The Independent Culture
Yes, it's panic time for those of you who have not yet submitted your tax forms! The end of January is the deadline, after which the Inland Revenue will come knocking on your door in the middle of the night, asking for money and uttering hideous cackling laughter. (See my leaflet "Can I Claim Self-Defence After Shooting a Tax Official in My Own Home?", pounds 2 + p&p.)

There is still time, however, to avoid this fate, and for those of you who want to get their forms in on time but are finding it a nightmare to fill them in, I am conducting a tax surgery today to clear up the most common problems.

I WONDER if you can help me. I have recently been involved in the building of a massive dome in Greenwich for the celebration of the millennium. To enable this to be financed, I arranged for a huge loan to be made to me which I didn't really get around to mentioning to anyone else. I have now been removed from being in charge of the building of the dome, which means that when the loan comes to light in my absence, it is going to cause a massive scandal, huge national embarrassment, snap general election and so on. Is there a way in which I could transfer the details of this loan outside the country now, so as to avoid them becoming public later?

Yes. Send for my leaflet `20 Different Ways in which Cabinet Ministers Can Get Loans Registered in the Cayman Islands to Avoid Undue Publicity and Notoriety' (pounds 200 + p & p.)

I WONDER if you can help me. I am the ex-president of a South American country directly south of Peru and am currently spending several months in Britain under house arrest while waiting for a decision on whether I can leave the country. To while away the time I have been writing my life story which I have tentatively entitled All Right, I Admit It! I Was the Dictator from Hell! So What Are You Going to Do About It?

To do some research on some of the murkier parts of my past, I have had to join Amnesty International and thus get access to statistics on my own period in power, which has been very useful. Can I claim my Amnesty membership as a legitimate tax-deductible expense?

Yes. Though I would advise you not to mention it the next time you are involved in a case in front of the Law Lords.

I AM the president of a committee which helps to choose the sites for the Olympic Games. Recently I have been shocked to discover that the members of my committee have been taking bribes to ensure that certain cities got the vote for the Winter Olympic Games, not to mention the summer ones...

The answer is quite clear. As president, you should have been aware of this. You must now resign.

No, no, that is not the question. I never resign. The question is this. If the committee members were discovered to have passed on some of their ill-gotten gains to me, would I be liable to tax on it? Are bribes in fact taxable? Or, being undercover in the first place, and therefore outside the law, are they also exempt from legal things such as taxes? This is purely hypothetical, you understand.

If I were you, I would send up for my leaflet `Why the Presidents of Some International Organisations Should Go Out and Throw Themselves from the Top of the Nearest Building at the First Opportunity, in a Purely Hypothetical Sort of Way, Of Course' (pounds 2.50 + p & p ).

I HAVE recently resigned as the leader of a major political party in Britain, and have been deluged with offers to write my memoirs. Political memoirs are always deadly dull exercises in evasiveness and I am loath to add to their number, but is there any tax incentive in not writing your autobiography?

No, but you will make more friends than any other living politician if you don't.

I AM the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain and have recently been engaged in bombing Iraq in order to distract attention from my ex-wife's recent book about me. However, we also have a very real reason for bombing Iraq, and that is that Saddam Hussein has been developing fearsome weapons of his own. We don't want him to spend lots of money developing fearsome weapons. We want him to spend lots of money buying fearsome weapons from the West, thus boosting British arms sales. That's why we're bombing him.

I see. But do you have a question?

NO. I just wanted to stress that all this bombing costs money, and that means taxes, and that means all of you getting your tax returns in as soon as possible. Thank you.