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

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition