NatWest goofs over Euro Disney shares: Sue Fieldman reports on a tortuous process

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EURO DISNEY shareholders who bought shares at the flotation of the company have had to wait three and a half years for the first dividend. But the pleasure has been clouded by the Mickey Mouse arrangements to get their tax refunds.

There are about 100,000 UK shareholders in Euro Disney. If you had 100 shares, you received the huge sum of pounds 5.05 - after French and UK taxes had been deducted.

At the same time National Westminster Bank, the registration agent, sent a long and complicated letter explaining how UK residents can reclaim some of the French tax deducted from the dividend. The French refund is worth about pounds 4 per 100 shares depending on the exchange rate.

It is a tortuous business. Firstly you need a form RF-4-GB, which you have to complete in quadruplicate.

NatWest very kindly provided a copy of the form, which was marked 'specimen' - it was not for use.

NatWest well and truly goofed by not enclosing an original form. Shareholders were told to write to the Inspector of Foreign Dividends.

But the Inspector of Foreign Dividends does not have any forms.

A beleaguered lady who answered the telephone at his office said: 'We do hold these forms but we have been suddenly deluged with inquiries from Euro Disney shareholders.

'We have run out. We ordered some more from France about two weeks ago.

'I dread to think how many we will have to send out but we will be doing it as quickly as possible.'

Obviously no-one warned a small department that out of the blue they would receive tens of thousands of requests for an obscure form.

When the forms are eventually dispatched, you have to try to complete them.

This is not a task for the faint-hearted shareholder. You will require a calculator in one hand and perhaps a stiff drink in the other.

You then send the form to your Inspector of Taxes for certification.

Has anyone remembered to notify the inspectors of taxes that thousands of forms will be arriving on their desks?

When you get the form back, duly certified, you post it to NatWest.

After all that, NatWest says you should not expect any repayment until 'between late February and April 1994'. And what exactly are you waiting for?

For a shareholder with 100 shares, the tax refund will provide the princely sum of about Fr35 (pounds 4), just about enough to cover the postage and envelopes needed to get and send the original forms with some small change left over.

David Rothenberg is a chartered accountant and a Euro Disney shareholder. He says: 'It is a pity that arrangements have not been made for UK resident shareholders to enjoy the tax credit directly, instead of having to go through so many bureaucratic hoops and then having to wait so long to get their money back.'

We asked NatWest why an original form was not sent to shareholders at the outset, thereby saving everyone a bundle of aggravation.

A spokesman said: 'It would have been helpful.

'Next year we will certainly be ensuring that things go more smoothly. We are always looking to improve our service'.

(Photograph omitted)

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