Letters - 27 February 2015

From Mary's Joy postponement to praise and chocolate

Mary’s Joy postponement

Thank you for your article announcing the postpone-ment of the tour of Mary’s Joy, my solo performance about Mary Dyer (20 February).

The Leaveners and supportive Friends on both sides of the Atlantic are working diligently to ensure the tour does happen. We learned (the hard way) that in order to have a visiting performer engage in such a tour, the sponsoring organisation must have a special licence, and the performer must obtain a Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Charity Worker) visa. In the application, the performer must cite the licence number. Once the application is submitted, it takes some weeks for the visa to be (hopefully) approved.

We were naive to think a simple tourist visa for six months would suffice. My deepest thanks to Ann Howard of Brighton Meeting for staying at Heathrow all day while I was detained and for then taking me under her wing, hosting me overnight and delivering me into the generous, capable hands of John Sheldon, a friend and Leaveners’ trustee, who returned me to the airport. It was an adventure and a lesson I will never forget. I hope to meet many of you very soon.

Jeanmarie Simpson

‘Friends join call for new tax law’

Friends need to think a bit more about tax avoidance (6 February) and the extent to which they themselves may have been tax avoiders.

There is a clear distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The first means so arranging one’s financial affairs that, under British law as it is at present, part of one’s income is not taxable. Full disclosure must be made to the tax authorities; all cards on the table! Tax evasion is failure to make full and truthful disclosure and is, rightly, a criminal offence.

Avoidance is not simply a sordid exercise dreamed up by financial advisers and clever lawyers. Most of it has been created (and encouraged) by laws passed by a succession of governments, though some of those laws have been repealed. How many Friends have avoided tax with:

1. Mortgage relief, whereby mortgage interest was offset by tax relief.

2. Lifetime gifts of capital to their families, which are partially free of inheritance tax if the donor survives for four years and wholly exempt after seven years.

3(a) Unlimited money and other assets bequeathed to a surviving spouse, free of inheritance tax.

  (b) Assets transferred to one’s spouse free of capital gains tax.

4. Pension fund contributions free of income tax within permitted limits.

5. Investments in ISAs which, within permitted limits, are exempt from income and capital gains tax.

Are these really immoral? If governments believe that some avoidance schemes are immoral, the remedy is in their hands – amend the law.

Paul Honigmann

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