Nice story

Of Peter Stringfellow:

Even as he came to rely on hearing aids and cosmetic surgery to hold the advancing years at bay, he continued to date girls less than half his age. When he was in his sixties one of his girlfriends asked him to send flowers to her mother on her 40th birthday.

23 comments on “Nice story

  1. Men very rarely want to sleep with older prostitutes. And Stringfellow had the money to choose. As did Wayne Rooney but that is another story.

    It is an odd reflection that this man should have become such a hero to the supposedly Conservative side of politics.

  2. COMPLETELY OFF TOPIC. Something I had been meaning to polish up a bit more before the FTM conference starting wanking itself into an orgasm of smug self-righteousness but never finished.

    The Unfair Tax Mark

    If you were a fake doctor, selling a fake remedy, the clever thing to do would be to create a fake illness or wildly exaggerate the dangers of a real one. Then you could offer your fake solution (for a fee of course) to a worried, nervous public.

    Is that what has happened with the Fair Tax Mark organisation? You may have heard of it. It takes money from companies, runs tests on them about their tax affairs and then hands out a ‘Fair Tax Mark’ (“FTM”) if it decides the company deserves it. And then the company can tell all its customers what a fair and upstanding member of the business community it is.

    That could be important in today’s climate. There’s lots of public anger at tax dodging. A company’s reputation could be damaged by adverse publicity and it could be argued that having a FTM is the cure or vaccination against this bad publicity.

    It so happens that one of the FTM founders and one of its directors is Richard Murphy a tax campaigner who is constantly writing about tax “abuse and evasion” using numbers and making claims that no-one else recognises. He’s estimated tax evasion and avoidance at four times the official figures. An extra £90 billion he says is being lost. He’ll tell you that HMRC is underfunded, that Companies House isn’t checking on companies, that the government is deliberately not collecting all the tax it could.

    If you were to believe what he wrote, you’d think it was a lawless tax ‘wild-west’ out there.

    And then he offers companies the chance to pay a fee to be given a FTM. So that they can be seen as one of the ‘good guys’.

    Murphy writes extensively about the ‘illnesses’ of tax evasion and then sells a certificate of vaccination.

    But is the FTM worth anything? The Fair Tax Mark Organisation is not an official body, it’s not overseen, it’s not accountable, there’s no external appeal process against its verdicts, it doesn’t publish its findings, it doesn’t have any investigative powers. All we can say for sure is that a fee is charged and a FTM given.

    Even then, is the FTM a sign that the company is one of the ‘good guys’? I’m not sure. Energy firm SSE was given a Fair Tax Mark in 2015, shortly before it was named as having failed to pay some of its staff the National Minimum Wage. Did the FTM people investigate that before handing out their FTM? Or isn’t paying NMW something the FTM people are worried about? Or is it something that can be overlooked for a fee? We just can’t tell, because the FTM people won’t go into details.

    And another company ATM Coffee Limited which was awarded the FTM in March of this year. A quick look at their Companies House records shows that it is 27% owned by a family Trust. Anyone reading Murphy’s columns will know that he constantly criticises the UK’s Trust rules for the secrecy they allow for those who benefit from Trusts. Was the granting of ATM Coffee’s FTM accompanied by details of the beneficiaries of this Trust? No. We don’t know who they are.

    I’m not for a moment suggesting there’s anything wrong here. But if Murphy sells the FTM on openness and transparency and if he criticises Trust secrecy, it seems an odd way to go about things.

    The point is this. The tax rules are complicated and if you wanted to, you could fool the public (and MPs) into thinking there was some sort of wild-west out there, with manipulative companies running rings round a hapless HMRC. And if after doing that you set up a company which took money off companies to give them a ‘Fair Tax Mark’ which you alone decided to award? I think that’s dubious.

    And it’s not as if the FTM people are being totally straight anyway. On their website they have re-published an article from the Daily Mirror. In the Article the Daily Mirror calls the Fair Tax mark “the UK’s official accreditation scheme for businesses paying their fair share of corporation tax”. But of course FTM is not officially accredited. Not at all. It’s totally unofficial. Sure, newspapers get things wrong but why did FTM republish the article on their own website? To mislead readers? Even worse, when I emailed FTM and asked them to remove the article, they refused. They admitted the article was not accurate but refused to remove it! Why? Anyone reading that article is going to be mislead and FTM surely knows it and doesn’t seem to mind.

    So, who has bought into the FTM so far? If you read the FTM literature, they reference “1,500 shops and offices” as being FTM accredited. Wow, 1,500 companies? Sound impressive? Actually, no. It’s less than 40 companies, it’s just that a couple of them have lots of offices. So why not say that? Why not say “40 companies”? Isn’t saying 1,500 shops and offices a bit, well, likely to mislead? Like allowing an article on their website saying they are ‘officially accredited’ when they aren’t?

    It’s not even THAT difficult to get a FTM. There’s a list of questions and up to 20 marks are awarded but you only need 13 out of 20 to get the FTM and some of those are awarded for listing the names and addresses of directors and trading address of the company!

    It doesn’t set the bar very high – but maybe it wouldn’t attract a fee paying client base if it did?

    But the thing that really sinks the FTM in my view is its views on dividends. Small company owners pay themselves dividends to avoid NIC. It’s the biggest single NIC avoidance plan out there. The government has changed the rules a lot in the last couple of years because it is so concerned about this. But what does FTM say about companies that avoid NIC this way? Can they be awarded the FTM despite taking part in the biggest single loss of NIC to the government? Yes, because according to the FTM people;

    “We have chosen not to…subtract, marks for the taking of reward from companies by way of dividends in lieu of salary because this arrangement is so commonplace”

    So, FTM’s view seems to be “it’s an obvious NIC avoidance trick but everyone’s doing it so that’s OK.” The point here is that FTM seem to be saying that there are some legal ways of saving tax/NIC they disapprove of and some they are prepared to turn a blind eye to in order to attract. customers.

    So, what do we have?

    An unofficial organisation which allows misleading information on its website, which gives FTMs to companies that don’t pay NMW, avoid employers’ NIC or which are owned by family Trusts, contrary to the condemnations of one of its directors and which decides itself, with no accountability, who gets the FTM and which was set up to supposedly reassure a public made suspicious (at least in part) by the writings of one of its founding directors.

    Is that a ‘Fair’ Tax Mark? You make up your own mind.

  3. Seems a fair comment..

    I must dust off my Fair Share Star one day, see if I can get that going properly. 40 awards over 4 years should be an easy target to beat 🙂

    Which reminds me: don’t you have to pay annually to get re-accredited to the FTM?

  4. @Pellinor

    Yep, supposed to be an annual thing. Be interesting to see who can be bothered to re-apply.

  5. Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist – “Never forget that Stringfellow was a fanatical Remoaner.”

    Geordie strippers are too expensive? He needed to import cheap Romanian girls?

    You know, I can see that. At least they wouldn’t have to strengthen the stage and the pole for the half-starved Eastern European girls.

  6. Also off topic but it seems Anthony Bourdain has killed himself.

    It is a pretty sad state of affairs where being internationally famous, paid handsomely to travel the world to beautiful places and eat delicious food, on top of living with Asia Argento, an Italian hottie twenty years younger than him, is not enough.

  7. I blame Harvey Weinstein.

    And trying to get his Frequent Flier points out of United.

  8. Andrew C

    I’ve often wondered, but as normal can’t be arsed to follow through myself, if a bogus application using Tax Research LLP as the model, would be awarded a FTM?

  9. @Bravefart

    It’s companies only so an LLP would be ineligible.

    When you look at the criteria for ‘marks’ to get to the 13, it’s a lot of window dressing and promising not to use tax havens or notifiable tax avoidance plans (DOTAS).

    This is bollocks in itself. Just because a plan is notifiable under DOTAS doesn’t mean it’s breaking the spirit of the law (whatever the fuck that is) any more than having a £1 share which gets you £100k a year in dividends and avoids a load of NIC (and giving your spouse another £1 share which achieves the same even though she doesn’t work for the company).

  10. There were a lot of empty seats at their fair tax week event the other day. Almost like no one bothered to show up

  11. @SMFS
    Sad news. Kitchen Confidential is a good read (whether he wrote it himself, or not). And reminds us all never to have the blue-plate special on a Monday.

  12. Chris Miller – “Kitchen Confidential is a good read (whether he wrote it himself, or not). And reminds us all never to have the blue-plate special on a Monday.”

    And especially not well-done.

    Actually he does remind me of something else I get flamed for saying around here. Bourdain came from a really upper middle class family but he sought out another path in life. One that involved drugs. He didn’t fall into drug addiction, he actively sought it out and was proud of it.

  13. Tim,
    I’m quite sure that’s true – never doubted it, in fact – but surely a hat-tip, credit or shout-out of some kind is called for, n’est pas?

  14. It’s difficult. If I post it as being written by someone else then according to Google rules I’ve got to present a bio of the person who wrote it. Possibly a bit much for the one piece.

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