Miles Kington: A taxing time of year for the creative mind

'Recently I underwent cosmetic surgery to make me look more like a certain prominent lady novelist. Can I claim it as a valid expense?'
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The Independent Online

I am an established novelist, and have been working on a new story about a novelist who gets into terrible trouble with the Inland Revenue when he gets badly behind with his tax payments. I like to research my plots thoroughly, so this year I have delayed filing my tax returns (and paying my tax bill) until after the deadline, so that I may experience at first hand the problems and hassles that await a late payer.

Can I legitimately claim this as a genuine reason for being late with my tax? Can I write off any penalties or fines for being late as a legitimate expense? Can I even refuse to pay any of them, on the grounds that I want to find out what happens to a writer when he fails to pay?

Our Tax Expert says: No, no and no.

I am a freelance travel writer who got stranded in Budapest last year after the coach of the travel group I was with unexpectedly departed without me. I spent the next six months in Hungary getting by on giving English lessons, etc. Can I claim the whole experience against tax as a travel writer? Or would I actually have to write a novel set in Budapest, about a travel writer who is stranded there etc, before I can make a valid claim?

Our Expert says: Yes.

I am a freelance cartoonist and illustrator who has been commissioned by a Middle East insurgency group to produce fake crude and vicious cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohamed in order to inflame popular feeling. This has worked very well for them, but it has led to death threats for me. The police have urged me to go into hiding and I am present living in a cave which has been rather expensive to kit out for my enforced retreat. I hope to claim the expenses of my troglodyte existence against tax. In order to prove my claim I would have to give my address, but the police say it would be fatal to do so. Will the Revenue admit my claim without being given details of my whereabouts?

Our Expert says: No.

As a matter of interest, what is Osama bin Laden's tax situation, as a chap who produces free-lance videos and pamphlets on a regular basis?

Our Expert says: Several tax inspectors have been dispatched to interview him about this, but none has ever come back.

Many of our foremost women writers hate appearing on TV to publicise their new books, and as an actress I am often required to take their place and masquerade as them. Recently I have undergone some cosmetic surgery to make me look more like a certain prominent lady novelist whose first name begins with "J". This was rather expensive. Can I claim it as a valid expense in the cause of literature?

Our Expert says: Not if it's the "J" I am thinking of.

To make up for the lateness of my tax return, I have filled it in in exquisite verse forms, using triolets and terza rima. A literary magazine now wishes to publish it. Does the Inland Revenue have any claim to the royalties which will accrue?

Our Expert says: All of them.

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