Why pounds 7m didn't do nicely for taxman

Click to follow
The Independent Online
When Felix Dennis, co-founder of the Sixties magazine Oz and now a multi-millionaire publisher, went to pay his tax bill earlier this month, the man from the Revenue was delighted.

Mr Dennis took the cheque himself to the Inland Revenue office in Stratford- upon-Avon - as it was for pounds 7.8m. Simon Norris, the tax inspector, personally thanked Mr Dennis for the cheque. The publisher gave him a blown-up copy as a keepsake and the Revenue staff crowded round and applauded.

It was good natured and surely a sign that all was well between Mr Dennis and the Revenue. Four days later, Mr Dennis received a demand for pounds 1,343.81. His bill was due to be paid on 1 December, a Sunday. Mr Dennis decided to deliver it in person and waited until Monday. Result: a charge of one day's interest.

No matter that the tax office was shut on the Sunday so he could not physically pay the money. The Revenue claims he owes them interest. Mr Dennis, who went to jail after the Oz obscenity trial, is standing firm.

He may have built an estimated pounds 160m fortune but he will not pay the pounds 1,343.81. He is prepared to go to jail again. "I will go to prison before I pay. They are trying to screw the last drop of blood out of a stone," he says.

His case has highlighted one of the bizarre anomalies about dealing with the Revenue. If he had posted the cheque on Saturday 30 November, to arrive in Stratford on the Monday, it would have been treated as having been paid on the Saturday. As it was, he handed it over at the same time as it would have arrived by post - and was charged interest.

Mr Dennis claims he is the victim of what he calls "internecine warfare" between Stratford and the central collecting office in Glasgow. "The bill for the interest came from the boss of bosses in Glasgow," he says. "I'm being made an example of, to show Norris how it is done."

The Stratford office is scheduled for closure and, claims Mr Dennis, it was a case of "Glasgow trying to show the provincial guys how tough they are".

If the cheque for pounds 7.8m had been posted he would not have been faced with the claim for interest. But, asks Mr Dennis, who sends a cheque for that amount through the post?

The solution is for the Revenue not to send out bills payable on a Sunday. By the time they get around to changing their procedures, however, Mr Dennis may well be in prison.

A Revenue spokeswoman said: "If a payment is made by hand, the date of receipt is treated as the date of payment. If payment is made by post and the office is closed, receipt is treated as the first day the office was closed."

The spokeswoman refused to say whether the Revenue was prepared to see Mr Dennis go to jail.

Comments