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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Key stage 3 and 4 Teacher requi...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence