Never mind the money; it’s better to be wise than foolish

April 2016 has proved a strange month.  Revelations about offshore accounts held in Panama have captured the attention, and hysteria, of the press.  Yes, there have been some interesting disclosures about possible money-laundering by unsavoury individuals, but the dead father of Britain’s Prime Minister has been traduced for being wise.  And his son has unwillingly been subjected to increasingly aggressive attention in respect of how he might have benefited.

I will make my position clear.  I have no offshore accounts (that I know of) and my accountant is scrupulous in ensuring that my income is all identified, and taxed.  I used to do my own accounts until the revenue tripped me up over my expenses (quite simple – I paid my private secretary but did not keep a receipt, so the amount I submitted as secretarial costs was disallowed).  Thereafter I did not wish to fall foul of them again, so I sought professional help.  Even so I failed on one occasion to declare interest on two accounts that I had rolled over into new ones, and HMRC had another little go at me, even though the income was measured in tens of pounds.  But professionals must set a good example.

The furore over Mr Cameron’s finances is senseless.  He earns an income, has unearned income and rent from a house, and was given a lump sum by his mother.  So? It is all declared.  The lump sum may be a will rearrangement that will end up tax free if mum lives seven years, but it is all perfectly legal.  Indeed every finance column in the papers advises that money should be transferred in this way if it is affordable.  I have done it with my children; my mother did it with me, and anyone who does not take advantage of such an opportunity is, quite simply, stupid.  It is perfectly legal, and until it isn’t then there is nothing wrong with it.  Leaving aside whether income should be taxed twice – and inheritance tax is just that – it is sensible.  It is prudent.  Likewise if it is legal to put money offshore, then one cannot criticise those who do it, unless of course the money was ill-gotten in the first place.

So anyway – Mr Cameron has released details of his income, and tax.  His accountant has signed off the information.  Now people are saying the information is inadequate; they want the actual tax return figures.  That is tantamount to accusing both him, and his accountants, of not telling the truth.  Now I know politicians don’t always tell the truth, but I cannot imagine for one moment that a Prime Minister would be so stupid as to provide information that could be proved to be inaccurate.  What’s there is quite good enough for me; indeed it is far more than I either need or want..  So he has share income.  So do I (not a lot). He has rental income.  I have a holiday house which is let out.  Is he, or am I supposed to leave the house empty?  If there are tax breaks should he not take them?  I put money into a perfectly legal tax-free fund – a NISA.  And if I decided to set up an offshore fund should I be obliged to ask permission from my children?  Don’t be so silly.

What Mr Cameron has done is to prove that he is astute in managing his finances.  He is wise.  What of his Labour opponent, Mr Corbyn?  He is so busy trying to get his nose into the business of others that he cannot even submit his own tax return on time! He was fined for that.  What a fool.  What a contrast.  If you wanted someone to manage your money, whom would you choose?

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