Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I stopped blogging here

Well, it's now over 4 months since I last posted on this Tax-Buzz blog. And not one person has asked me why or seems to have missed it.  After over 400 posts over the previous 4 years. I think this evidences that much of what is said about blogging is bogus. I first shared my concerns on this topic back in 2008.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still an active blogger - especially for Ambitious Accountants where I share tips, insights and advice for a key target audience. I have posted almost 500 items there over the last few years and routinely adapt blog posts for inclusion in talks and longer articles.

But returning to this Tax-Buzz blog, the main purpose was to attract traffic and interest for the Tax Advice Network. Initially the blog was embedded in the site and then at the end of 2007 we moved to this blogspot platform as it is more Google friendly.

I also had an idea at the outset that the blog would evidence my stance as an independent tax commentator and explainer of complex tax issues. But for each year of blogging here I reckon I have had no more than two approaches by the media for interviews or comment. Not really worth the effort I think it's fair to say.

And my life has moved on. I remain Chairman of the Tax Advice Network and we publish a weekly practical tax tips newsletter written especially for accountants in general practice. Beyond this though my income generative writing, mentoring, facilitating and speaking gigs have no direct connection with tax commentary issues. When I reviewed how I was spending my time I realised that blogging here was taking too much time for no perceived benefit. So I stopped.

The writing was on the wall when I posted this piece last November: After 400 Tax-Buzz blog posts - what now?

I was recently advised to make it clear that the absence of any Tax-Buzz blog posts in 2012 was a conscious decision. Maybe I'll find an new angle that better resonates with my other activities. There's certainly no absence of tax stories these days to highlight, flag, explain or clarify. But for now I'll leave it to others.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 TaxBuzz posts of 2011

Which TaxBuzz posts grabbed your attention this year?

During 2011 I added almost 90 new posts to this blog taking the total over the last 4 years to well over 400. At different times I got bored, distracted and overly enthusiastic. This is apparent from the wildly different number of monthly posts across the year.

Here is a reminder of the Top 5 most-visited TaxBuzz blog posts of 2011. Click on the titles if you want to read them again. Your comments are also still welcome too.
This post was inspired by a intriguing article in the Sunday Times and a conversation I had with a top Stamp Duty tax lawyer.
The programme included an interview with Graham Aaronson prior to the publication of his GAAR report

Tax tease: Late filing penalty stays at £100
31 March 2011
A classic case of debunking misleading media stories about a theoretically possible rise to£1,300

HMRC turn the Spotlight on the newest EBT related tax avoidance schemes
10 Mar 2011
Fair warning to anyone tempted to pay good money for putting funds into such schemes

The best tax advice you will ever hear
9 Aug 2011
All too often the tax advice shared by amateurs proves the truth of that old adage that 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tax fallacy of the week: The Frozen CGT threshold

The media is reporting that the Chancellor's decision to freeze the annual CGT exemption at £10,600 is bad news for 'normal' people. What rot.

I read in The Telegraph today, for example,
“It looks like this freeze will pay for the SEIS,” [Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme]
and that:
“That will be very good for start-up businesses, but will have limited appeal for ordinary investors. This is robbing the ordinary people to pay for perks for the very rich.”
Come on. The annual exemption is intended as a convenience to avoid 'normal' people being in default for failing to disclose relatively small capital gains. I had been more concerned the exemption was going to be reduced to £1,000 (as was proposed in the Lib Dem manifesto).

As it stands the only people to benefit from the exemption on a regular basis need to be wealthy enough to realise capital gains of more than £10,000 each year. 'Gains' here means capital profits, which means disposing of capital assets (eg shares) worth many times that sum. They do it as an alternative to generating a further £10,000 of income which would be subject to 40% or 50% tax. Few 'normal' people can do that year after year.

So today I speak to all those commentators mourning the freezing of the CGT annual allowance at £10,600. For attempting to paint this as a problem for 'normal' people you get my Tax Fallacy of the week award.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tax temptation of the week: Stamp Duty Land Tax avoidance

The Saturday Times* was headlined with reference to a story about how the 'super-rich' avoid paying Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) when they buy their mansions.

Simply stated the property doesn't change hands. The purchaser buys the shares in a limited company that owns the property. As long as the company itself doesn't sell the property there is no SDLT to pay.

Easy? Not at all. How to do you get the property into a limited company in the first place without paying SDLT? There are many complex tax related minefields to negotiate to make such a plan work. And it costs thousands of pounds to find out if it would be possible and to navigate the minefields.

Please do not be fooled into thinking that any of this is something to consider doing for the sort of properties that we normal mortals can afford. And there are no other simple ways to avoid SDLT any more, as I explained in May when answering the question: Are stamp duty avoidance schemes worth the money?

A similar view to mine was shared on CityWire in March. They explained: The chancellor has finally clamped down on stamp duty avoidance schemes widely used by rich individuals buying high value residential properties as well as buyers of commercial properties.

And I note that Solicitors have been advised by the Law Society not to get involved in SDLT schemes. That, I think, says it all.

The real issue here is the jealousy that the Times story generates. We don't like paying SDLT. The media are highlighting the facility available to the super-rich and we are in uproar that they can avoid this tax. But how many readers would choose to pay hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds in tax on a new property if there was a reliable legal way to avoid doing so?
So we agree that the 'loophole' should be plugged. Will it be? Don't hold your breath.

*As The Times story is behind their paywall I have linked to a rehash of the same story on the 'This Is Money' website.

Tax taunt of the week: “A quarter of drivers say cyclists should pay road tax”

The quote in my title refers to a survey attributed to Confused.com which led to this headline in the Metro: 'Irresponsible' cyclists should pay road tax, say quarter of drivers

Surprisingly though I could find no reference to the survey or, what I would describe as, the Tax Taunt, on the Confused.com website. Could this be because of the criticism and backlash the report produced?

Cycling website RoadCC, denounced Confused.com "as PR campaign goes spectacularly wrong". The site goes on to say:

"Insurance comparison firm Confused.com has provoked a storm of criticism from both cyclists and drivers alike with a ham-fisted and error-strewn press release aimed at promoting an equally confused road safety campaign and ostensibly highlighting the problem of road rage on Britain’s roads which has instead managed to alienate – not to mention confuse – almost everyone at whom it was aimed."

RoadCC then lists a number of alleged errors and further commentary in the same style and tone

Assuming the maths on RoadCC site are correct I think it's only fair to present Confused.com with my Tax Taunt of the week award.