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The taxman turns into Mr Nice Guy

THREE words rarely found in close proximity are 'Revenue', 'Inland' and 'popular'. All this, we learn, is now changing thanks to what a revenue type describes as the 'horrendously successful' Tax Back television advertising campaign. In this, Inland Revenue is depicted as a cuddly body dedicated to encouraging people to ask for refunds, rather than zealously pursuing miscreants for unpaid tax or evasion of same. In the first three weeks of the campaign, 250,000 people have overwhelmed the service by contacting the Tax Back freephone number or a freepost voucher. Jennifer Laing, chairman of the advertising agency Laing Henry, says it is one of the most effective campaigns she has ever been involved with. The freephone helpline, we're told, is manned by revenue officials trained to say 'tax back' in a positive manner: 'trying to make it look as if they are expected to talk about getting tax back, and nothing else,' explains the spokeswoman. Of course, to qualify for a refund you will have to present a fairly detailed review of what you've earned and how much tax you've paid. This information is, unfortunately, the sort the more predatory type of taxman thrives upon: 'It is theoretically possible that you could expose yourself to a liability,' says Richard Buckle, a tax manager at Price Waterhouse . The words 'fly', 'trap' and 'Venus' spring to mind.

HAD problems getting through to British Telecom's Communications Unit on Monday and Tuesday? Thought so - the telephones were not connected.

Cryptic no

KEITH VAZ, the MP for Leicester East, is appalled to have been told by the Palace of Westminster authorities that he may not be married in St Mary's Undercroft, the crypt chapel in the palace. Despite the fact that the church pre-dates the Reformation, only Anglicans may marry there: Vaz and his intended, Maria Fernandes, are both Goan Catholics. The best that St Mary's can offer is a service of blessing. And so a stiffly worded Commons motion - objecting to such religious discrimination - will surface next week. 'This is serious - I'm not doing it just for the wedding presents]' Vaz insists.

BUTTER, fans of Last Tango In Paris will recall, plays an important part in that very rude film. So much so that at its first Italian screening street vendors were outside the cinemas - so the legend goes - selling little individually wrapped packets of the stuff. And so it comes as no surprise that Channel 4 is negotiating with both Anchor and Unilever (makers of 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter]') in the hope that they will place an advertisement when the film receives its television premiere on Sunday. (C4 says it has also contacted the makers of the fizzy drink, Tango - so you may wish to take this story with a pinch of unsalted.)

Heartfelt messages

WE asked you to send us examples of Valentine's day exchanges between the great. Judy Lustigman's was the least offensive: she wins a bottle of Lanson champagne (and a big kiss from us for having helped to fill an awkward hole in this column) for this offering:

Her to him:

Oh, once you were my lusty fella

You made me feel so warm and mella.

But then I brought you pain and infamy

Now other actresses have got it in for me.

Him to her:

Roses are red,

Chelsea is blue,

I'd still be Minister,

If it wasn't for you.

FOLLOWING our story of the 'Spot the Dog' (in a field of sheep) competition that is thrilling readers of one Welsh newspaper, we hear of the mould-breaking 'Spot the Body' competition held at the Co-operative Funeral Services offices in Llanelli, Dyfed. This - an industrial tribunal in Cardiff has been told - was instigated by Ian George, the shop's manager, after David Watkins, manager of a sister branch in Llandeilo, went missing. For pounds 1 employees could put a cross on a map and guess where Mr Watkins's body would turn up. Mr Watkins eventually did turn up in a river, dead, but Mr George was sacked for his lack of taste, and no record exists of who, if anyone, won the competition.


12 February 1915 EM Forster writes to DH and Frieda Lawrence: 'Dear Lawrences, Until you think it worth while to function separately, I'd better address you as one. I have got the book for Lady O(ttoline Morrell) - The Romance of Words. As for coming again to Greatham, I like Mrs Lawrence, and I like the Lawrence who talks to Hilda and sees birds and is physically restful and wrote The White Peacock, he doesn't know why; but I do not like the deaf impercipient fanatic who has nosed over his own little sexual round until he believes that there is no other path for others to take, he sometimes interests & frightens & angers me, but in the end he will bore me merely. So I can't yet tell about coming down.'