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Monday, 7 December 2009
Tax Avoidance? - Certainly Not!
There has been a large amount of chatter in various organs of the media recently about our "beloved" ex PM, religious convert and international peace maker, Tony Blair.
People are a little confused about how he makes his money, and the purpose of a number of companies that he seems to have connections with. Windrush Ventures, Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, and another called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation have all come under the spotlight.
The funny thing is that, as yet, no one has quite been able to make sense of the rationale for the structure of the 12 companies that Blair has created.
Now, were this anyone else, the obvious answer would be tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is of course perfectly legal. However, as TB is ex leader of the party that has officially come out against tax avoidance, describing it as "immoral", and as TB was once an MP (MPs' financial dealings are always above reproach, leading the moral way forward) this bizarre structure cannot possibly be for tax avoidance.
So what on earth is it for?
The Guardian, fed up with not understanding this either, has launched a wee competition asking accountants et al to study the company documents and structure and come up with an answer to this question:
"The former prime minister Tony Blair has received millions of pounds through an unusual mixture of commercial, charitable and religious income streams. Since he stepped down from office in 2007, his financial affairs have been described by observers as "Byzantine" and "opaque". The Guardian is now launching an online competition offering a prize to the person who can shine the brightest light on those financial structures.
Blair has a commercial consultancy, called Tony Blair Associates, plus jobs advising a US bank and a Swiss insurer. He has a multimillion pound book deal. He also has a charity, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, and another called the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. But much of the income, which includes charitable donations from other sources, has been funnelled through a structure called Windrush Ventures No 3 Limited Partnership. Our contest asks: what is Windrush?
Blair has a complex web of structures involving 12 different legal entities handling the unprecedented millions he is receiving since he stepped down from office in 2007.
So mystifying are the former prime minister's financial structures – which involve highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies – that the Guardian today launches an open invitation to tax specialists and accountants to attempt to explain the motivation behind such structures. We have published the Companies House documents and other legal papers regarding the structure of the partnerships at guardian.co.uk and invite expert comment via our site at guardian.co.uk/politics/series/blair-mystery."
I assume that HMRC have satisfied themselves that this does not conflict with their new found zeal to clamp down on avoidance schemes?
Any ideas anyone as to what this is for? There's an "HMRC Is Shite" T shirt in it for the winner.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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