Sick of being a chump who pays for schools and hospitals? You won’t be after you’ve finished our quiz
Tax is so taxing. Do you know your Double Luxembourg from your Irish branch and your Dutch sandwich from your VAT-rated pasty? How nice it would be to answer in the affirmative. Wouldn’t you rather be telly presenter Fiona Bruce minimising your tax exposure with the assistance of clever accountants rather than an impecunious nobody paying income tax like a chump? Me too. Aren’t you sick and tired of being an honest rube paying for roads, schools, hospitals, British soldiers in Afghanistan, Maria Miller’s expenses and for David Cameron to have his wisteria pruned, while this millennium’s Gordon Gekkos avoid bankrolling HMRC so successfully that they have solid-gold braces for every day of the week? I know I am.
By the end of this quick quiz you should know all that’s worth knowing about taxation and find out who you are tax-wise. The stakes are high: you could be Jimmy Carr, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Boris Johnson, John Humphrys, or you could be a numpty who’s realised – nearly too late – that you should have been doing your tax return to meet the 31 January deadline rather than reading this.
You are Jeremy Hunt. It’s just before the 2010 general election and there’s a tax rise looming that might impact on your property portfolio unless you act lickety split. Do you:
a) Avoid more than £100,000 tax on a £1.8m property deal with the help of your clever accountants
b) Pay as much tax as you’re assessed for – after all there’s a huge government deficit that your manifesto commits you to reducing and so any money in government coffers is a good thing.
c) Not understand what the tax reform means
d) Do a) and park the savings into a Dutch subsidiary, then pump monies from that Dutch subsidiary through a Luxembourgian subsidiary and then an Irish one thus minimising any other taxes. Can I get a ker-ching?
e) Do a) and b) and then bullishly defend yourself in interviews with quotes along the lines of “that’s how capitalism works, suckers” and “I regret nothing”
An Irish branch is:
a) Something to do with trees.
b) That new Primark on Oxford Street
c) What they use to make crack pipes from?
d) A tax avoidance strategy involving shifting income from a higher tax country (eg the UK) to a lower-tax country (eg the Irish republic)
e) Definitely d) but best used in conjunction with other tax avoidance strategies to make sure none of those disgusting high-tax, welfare state-loving loser Europeans get their mitts on your hard-earned
You’re Ken Livingstone thinking about reducing your tax bill. Do you:
a) Set up a firm called Silveta enabling you to pay corporation tax at 20% rather than income tax at up to 50%?
b) Not do a) because it affronts your ardently socialistic principles
c) Do b) but also consider selling those safari suits you used to wear as GLC leader in the 80s on eBay because – surely – they must be due a moment. And any proceeds from their sale would help pay your income tax bills
d) Not do b), because any ardently socialistic principles you may or may not have had are so last millennium
e) Do a) but not stop there. Only limey losers like Fiona Bruce merely reduce their tax liability by establishing companies to pay corporation tax rather than income tax. Real masters of the universe, like you, move your money around the world through foreign subsidiaries where there are minimal or no corporation taxes
You’re in a pasty shop. Do you:
a) Buy a pasty and ask them to warm it up
b) Buy a pasty and take it home to warm it up, thus avoiding VAT
c) Buy a pasty and eat it cold in the street with crumbs and grease, you disgusting slob
d) Never eat pasties. Because they’re hideous?
e) Never heard of pasties. Unless you mean the French aperitif which is spelled differently and tastes so revolting you wouldn’t disinfect a lavatory with it?
Imagine you’re Boris Johnson. Nobody said this quiz would be fun. You earned £900,000 in freelance earnings on top of your six-figure salary as London mayor during the first three years of your tenure, you repellent ill-coiffed toff. Do you:
a) Call on fellow Bullingdon Club alumnus George Osborne to cut the top rate of tax to be cut from 50p to 45p in the Chancellor’s budget earlier this year
b) Happily pay your tax bill with a song in your heart and not the merest smidgeon of resentment. After all, you’re richer than Croesus in non-inflation adjusted terms
c) Stop doing freelance work as you’re earning enough as mayor and, you’d think, have enough work on running one of the world’s greatest cities and have no time to write blowhard comment pieces for the Telegraph.
d) Do a) and write a blowhard piece about it in the Telegraph
e) Do a) and d) and demand a pay rise from the editor of the Telegraph because you’re worth it (by which you mean you’re not working for lineage, NUJ rates or any other rate paid to loser hacks)
You’re George Osborne, but not as chubby as cartoonists make you look. Your aim is to get an additional £9bn in tax revenues every year. You do this by:
a) Clobbering those who aren’t tax-avoiding international corporations whose finance directors pride themselves on minimising how much they pay to the Revenue
b) Clobbering tax-avoiding international corporations whose finance directors pride themselves on minimising how much they pay to the Revenue
c) Hoping if you steal the chocolate money from your daughter’s advent calendar that might help
d) Do b) while wearing an insufferably supercilious grin in photo ops
e) Do b) while wearing an insufferably supercilious grin in photo ops and telling interviewers that the only way we’re going to get out of this mess is by soaking the poor not the rich. Ideally in a terrifying manner that makes you look like Glenn Close in Damages
It’s time to work on your tax return so you can submit it before the 31 January deadline. Yippee! Do you?
a) Spend long winter evenings over a tax return wearing reading glasses and shouting to your spouse in the next room questions such as, “Do you know what our tax deductible charity expenditures for 2011/2012 were? What do you mean you don’t know what percentage of our utility bills can be offset against tax if we claim the bedroom as a home office? But why not? No you shut up!”
b) Get a really good accountant who knows all about how to avoid tax, send them all the receipts and spend the winter working on your tan in Barbados
c) Cry for whole days at a time
d) Definitely b)
e) Definitely b)
Imagine you’re running an international corporation. Corner office, trouser presses, yacht moored off Corfu, the whole schmeer. You’ve paid £8.6m in corporation tax in 14 years of trading in the UK and nothing in the last three years despite UK sales of nearly £400m in 2011 alone . You’re something important at Starbucks essentially. What’s your business strategy here?
a) Pay your finance directors a bonus. You love those guys. Do anything but b). That’s nuts!
b) Pay back taxes amounting to billions of pounds, realising that your UK profits have been due, in no small measure, to British taxpayers supporting your “gourmet” coffee brand and made possible by your use of the tax-funded infrastructure you use to ferry your goods around the place?
c) I stopped reading at “trouser presses”
d) Pay a little more money – £10m a year for the next two years – to HMRC to placate Margaret Hodge and all those other irritating MPs who’ve been on your case about the taxes you avoid in the UK. And to make nice with all those protesters who’ve been tweeting how disgusting they think you are by issuing a long statement about how difficult it is to make a profit in the UK.
e) Counter-tweet jerk-off customers who are boycotting your outlets that, really, you’re doing nothing immoral, just playing the game of capitalism by rules you didn’t devise. You’re so not the problem. Maybe, in fact, they are. The jerks
How did you answer?
Mostly As You’re probably Jimmy Carr, tax-avoiding “funnyman”.
Mostly Bs You’re probably John Humphrys, who, unlike many of his leading colleagues at the BBC, didn’t see fit to redefine himself as a company in order to pay lower rate corporation tax at a lower rate than income tax.
Mostly Cs You’re an honest tax-paying chump (no offence) keeping it real so those As, Ds and Es can exploit the system to their advantage.
Mostly Ds You’re probably Kris Engskov, head of, Starbucks UK.
Mostly Es You’re probably Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google who said he was “very proud” of the complex structures which allowed his company to slash more than £200m from its UK tax bill. “It’s called capitalism,” said Schmidt who may have the charm sucked out of him daily by strong-lipped lackeys working below living wage. To be fair, it’s been impossible to verify that last point, but it doesn’t seem impossible. 876543212