Stan Hey: This is a fiscally sound column - honest, guv

Share

Picture the scene: a column of four-wheel drive vehicles with blacked-out windows crunches to a halt on the gravel forecourt of a 17th-century mansion. From the cars spring men and women in grey suits, wearing sunglasses to sinister effect. As they brace themselves behind the doors of their cars, they reach into their shoulder-holsters and pull out calculators. "Okay!" shouts the leader, "come out with your accounts right now!"

Picture the scene: a column of four-wheel drive vehicles with blacked-out windows crunches to a halt on the gravel forecourt of a 17th-century mansion. From the cars spring men and women in grey suits, wearing sunglasses to sinister effect. As they brace themselves behind the doors of their cars, they reach into their shoulder-holsters and pull out calculators. "Okay!" shouts the leader, "come out with your accounts right now!"

The announcement of a special tax squad to target celebrities and any of their "undeclared" earnings from photo-shoots of weddings and show-business parties, will have caused a few splutterings among the champagne and smoked salmon set yesterday morning. All those who have been featured in such glossy publications as Hello! and OK will have been struck by ominous thoughts. Why was that older waiter at the wedding reception making notes? Why didn't that man doing the video have a reversed baseball cap on his head?

All across the country, anxious celebrities will have retired to silk-wallpapered billiard rooms to make calls on their onyx telephones to ask their tax advisers the burning question: "Am I in the clear on this?" It is equally easy to imagine the scenes at tax headquarters, as the Sunday morning shift, drinking cold coffee from polystyrene cups, pored over the acres of shiny supplements looking for clues to undeclared wealth and gifts. On the pin-boards all around the room, the targeted celebrities will be beaming down from those cheesy photographs that may yet come to incriminate them.

Of course the pursuit of celebrities by tax authorities is nothing new. It was the Internal Revenue Services who copped gangster and club owner Al Capone, not the FBI - probably the biggest ever coup for the "suits". Over here, the Inland Revenue has always been on the look-out for likely suspects, calculating that while the general public may admire celebrities, they hate the idea of them getting away with unpaid tax.

Indeed, there could have been few more popular figures than jockey Lester Piggott, but when he was sent down for three years in 1987 for massive tax evasion he found himself fairly friendless. What may have swung the sympathy vote was the story that Piggott had agreed a settlement with the Revenue, but had then sent them a cheque from an account to which he hadn't previously confessed.

Around this time, I was writing a comedy-drama series whose executive producer happened to take up with a rising young actress. After they were pictured at an airport, with a caption mentioning the actress and her "millionaire producer" boyfriend, the Revenue chaps were on the phone in days to inquire about this sudden exalted status.

There were also stories about a well-known club comedian who took home bin-liners full of "readies" in the boot of his Jag, being tailed through the night by the tax-men.

The one that "got away" was Ken Dodd who was charged with hoarding masses of undeclared cash in the attic of his Knotty Ash cottage. When this detail came out in court, incidentally, the cottage was quickly raided by local "scallies" in search of any left-overs. Dodd was found innocent at his trial in Liverpool, which may have told the Revenue something about being too ardent in pursuing figures whose local popularity was unimpeachable.

The Hello revenue squad will find that our fascination with the celebrity life-styles shown in the glossy magazines often gives way to vengeful hopes of a broken marriage or a fall from grace. But while clobbering most celebrities for more tax would bring popular acclaim, there may be a few who are beyond censure. Clearly a new fiscal version of Who's Who is called for. Of course, my fee for this column will be paid by cheque.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies  

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s new novel is more than just a literary event

Joseph Charlton
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'