Steve Allen brings you the latest from the newspapers as you wake up.
12 November 2017, 01:12
There has been another release of papers from a firm that caters for the super-rich to organise their finances so as to maximise their efficiency, or whatever is the phrase these people use to justify what your average non-expert person in the street might think should put you in jail.
The New York billionaire Leona Helmsley once famously said “We don't pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes”.
She was shortly afterwards found guilty of tax evasion among other things and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
However, after the court realised she was a rich white person, she only served 19 months.
Only the little people serve time too.
That was in 1994 in America but the same kind of people are still doing the same kind of things and getting away with it.
They use arrangements set up by genius accountants and legal professionals that are so mind-bogglingly complex that Einstein would have had to sit down with a cold compress on his brow if he had ever tried to figure one of them out.
Mostly these schemes are kept secret from us. Secrecy is the key to their success.
That way, for instance, people can use off-shore money that has been hidden from the taxman to influence politicians and governments and steer the country in a direction of their choosing.
The old notion that there is one rule for the rich and another for the rest of us is not just conspiracy theory nonsense.
The Paradise Papers follow the Panama Papers and the Luxembourg Leaks and show to what lengths the international super-rich will go to avoid paying what a reasonable person might describe as “their fair share”.
The guilty trotted out the exact same excuse they always give – we've heard the same thing word for word whenever one of these individuals or companies gets found out – “we pay the full amount of tax applicable in every jurisdiction in which we operate and we arrange our affairs completely within the law”.
That translates as: we ply one country off against another and strong arm them to change laws and we pay huge amounts to accounting and legal firms to comb through the regulations and find ever more opaque and clandestine ways of skipping round the rules without actually breaking any of them.
They can only do this because no one in authority had ever thought that anyone would employ such tactics, so they never thought to outlaw them.
I mean, who would think that someone would give all their earnings away to a company in the Cayman Islands that exists only in name, then appoint themselves as the sole financial advisor for that fake company and then tell that company that the best way to spend its money is to pay for houses and sports cars and holidays for the person that gave that company the money in the first place?
By using this method of sending their earnings on a 14,000 mile round trip, the person does not pay any tax on their earnings, because, on the face of it, they have given them away.
Technically, that's not illegal because no one in authority had the imagination or foresight to predict that anyone would do such a thing and write a law banning it.
The Cayman Islands are one of the many tax havens that operate under the British flag. We are the pre-eminent nation on earth for the rich and shameless to hide their wealth and launder their money.
Our own head of state got caught up in this latest scandal. A great chunk of the Queen's half a billion pound personal fortune is invested in tax havens.
When that little nugget came out, the usual royal hem-sniffers leapt into action to defend her.
They said it was disgraceful that the good name of her majesty had been sullied by association with such schemes and that she could not possibly have known and etc. and so on.
These are the same apologists who will tell us of how well informed is her majesty on all matters and what a tight grip she has on the purse strings, right up to the point at which she is tainted by scandal and then she magically morphs into a dotty old lady who doesn't know where her money is.
The same trick is pulled by business people who will speak glowingly of their ability to make millions from their titanic acumen and genius and, when found out to have been cheating the tax man, then claim to be clueless dupes of dodgy financial advisors.
The one thing that seems certain is that this latest revelation of how the rich avoid paying tax will have no effect whatsoever.
The public will quickly grow bored of reading the same story and will seek out other amusements like the John Lewis Christmas TV ad or whatever Princess Whatsit wore to glad-hand toothless flag wavers at some royal walkabout.
We little people will continue to be the ones that pay taxes because they are taken from our wages before we get our money.
And if you have ever wondered why so much tax is taken from your earnings and yet the NHS is in crisis and the police are so understaffed they can't investigate your break-in and the pot holes in the roads don't get fixed, just remember that all the tax that is avoided on the £6 trillion kept off-shore has to be made up by you.
You are subsidising the lifestyles of the haves and the have-mores.
They would say that they are grateful but I imagine they are too busy laughing.