John Simpson: I'm lodging a complaint about tax dodging

I've paid for the privilege of living in Britain. But it is a privilege, all the same

Share

Just because you are a journalist, it doesn't mean you like seeing your name in the newspapers. Especially not if the implication in the article about you is that you are a tax dodger. Several newspapers carried similar stories on Tuesday, based on the fact that my home is owned by a trust based in the Bahamas.

In today's climate, the very mention of the name "Bahamas" looks dodgy. The identical implication of the stories was that the house had been put into the trust to avoid inheritance tax. At a time when various well-known figures have been revealed to belong to aggressive tax-avoidance schemes, this story seemed to put me in the same category.

The fact is, the trust is a family one associated with my wife, who is South African, and was set up long before we were married and had a child to leave it to. That didn't get a mention. Nor did the fact that we have been doing everything we can for some time to have the trust dissolved: not a quick and easy business, and certainly not a cheap one. And no one thought to suggest that the house, as with most people in this country, is mortgaged.

There is, as it happens, nothing illegal or dubious about having assets in a trust: check with an accountant – or a tax inspector. Until very recently, no one would even have raised an eyebrow. But I decided some time ago to ask my wife if she would agree to a more conventional method of home ownership; and she did.

I spend long months every year out of Britain, and so does my wife. For many years, we lived in Ireland, where I have citizenship. It would have been very easy to drift off into non-residence. Instead, I went the other way, and decided to move back full-time to Britain and pay British income tax, although I am still abroad as much as I've ever been.

It hasn't been easy, and I've paid for the privilege. But it is a privilege, all the same. So to see myself smeared with the accusation of tax-dodging is very annoying indeed.

The Independent carried the story first, whatever the inferences its readers may have drawn. Two other newspapers, scenting an anti-BBC story, didn't bother to make any checks and simply used The Independent's article as useful research material, adding their own spin.

Now, if ever someone on another newspaper wants to write something about me, this will appear on their computer screens alongside the rest of it. Maybe they'll spot the truth when they see it.

John Simpson is the world affairs editor for BBC News

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A new election forecast indicates Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats may hold the power in deciding who forms the next government  

General election latest: computer model predicts the Lib Dems might have even more influence

John Rentoul
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success  

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

DJ Taylor
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?