John Simpson on age, the BBC and why he was a secret tax exile


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The Independent Online

The BBC broadcaster John Simpson might seem an unlikely tax avoider. But he has admitted having a beneficial offshore tax arrangement, by placing the London town house he shares with his wife, Dee Kruger, in an offshore company.

The house, bought for £1.85m in 2004, was owned through a Bahamas company controlled by his South African wife. The arrangement could be used to avoid inheritance tax or stamp duty after a future sale.

However, the BBC's world affairs editor, 67, said he had decided to end the arrangement before the controversy over the comedian Jimmy Carr's tax avoidance broke. He told i it was "absolutely right" that all British citizens pay their taxes and that he would put the property back under the couple's own names, a move which could cost him a six-figure sum in capital gains tax.

"I pay rather a lot of tax," Simpson said. "It's absolutely right for a citizen of this country to pay whatever amount of tax, within reason, the government of the day feels is required. It's painful but I think that's part of the duties of a citizen of this country."

The BBC licence fee is one "tax" he would gladly pay more of, the veteran correspondent added, claiming that the Corporation's coverage of the Arab Spring and other foreign news was being severely damaged by a rolling 20 per cent cuts programme.

"The BBC's budgets are being cut so horrendously you can't spend more than four or five days on a story now," he said. "This ongoing series of cuts is quite wrong. It's bad for the entire BBC, it's bad for the TV industry and it's bad for the country."

Simpson said he had given up second-guessing the decisions of BBC bosses – "the workings of the BBC after 46 years inside of it are an utter mystery to me" – but he shared the disappointment of many viewers with the Corporation's lightweight presentation of the jubilee celebrations. "I missed David Dimbleby so much," he admitted. "I do find it a bit weird that we've got this state-of-the-art Rolls-Royce that for some reason we don't always bring out for these occasions."

Simpson spoke to i a week after controversially revealing that he was stockpiling pills which he would use to take his own life should he become mentally and physically incapacitated. The plan, designed to prevent his six-year-old son, Rafe, from seeing his father become a "gibbering wreck", was criticised by anti-euthanasia campaigners. But Simpson defended his intentions, which he disclosed after spending a week with dementia sufferers for a BBC1 series, When I Get Older, to be screened tomorrow.

"I'm not talking about anyone else, just myself in my own particular circumstances. I don't want [my son's] main memories of me to be somebody that can't look after himself," he said.

Simpson concedes that the experience of living inside the care home had made him realise that his days in the field were numbered. "Just because you reach the age of retirement doesn't mean you can't still do the job as well as the guys coming in. The thought of giving it all up will be quite sad."