Tag Archives: london

How to Write About Tax Havens

Cold Morning in a suburb of Torino, 1955 by Riccardo Moncalvo

I interviewed my buddy Nic Shaxson for Longreads. Here’s a clip:

Last year Shaxson published a Vanity Fair article, ‘A Tale of Two Londons,’ that described the residents of one of London’s most exclusive addresses—One Hyde Park—and the accounting acrobatics they had performed to get there. 

Here’s how it works: If you’re a Russian oil billionaire or a Nigerian bureaucro-baron and you want to hide some of your money from national taxes and local scrutiny, London real estate is a great place to stash it. All you need to do is establish a holding company, park it offshore and get a-buying. Here’s Shaxson:

These buyers use offshore companies for three big and related reasons: tax, secrecy, and “asset protection.” A property owned outright becomes subject to various British taxes, particularly capital-gains and taxes on transfers of ownership. But properties held through offshore companies can often avoid these taxes. According to London lawyers, the big reason for using these structures has been to avoid inheritance taxes. […]

But secrecy, for many, is at least as important: once a foreign investor has avoided British taxes, then offshore secrecy gives him the opportunity to avoid scrutiny from his own country’s tax—or criminal—authorities too. Others use offshore structures for “asset protection”—frequently, to avoid angry creditors. That seems to be the case with a company called Postlake Ltd.—registered on the Isle of Man—which owns a $5.6 million apartment on the fourth floor [of One Hyde Park].

Shaxson argues that this phenomenon has taken over the U.K. real estate market—extortionate penthouses for the ultrarich sitting empty while the rest of us outbid each other for the froth below.

Now go read the whole thing!

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Photos of Occupy London

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Describing friendship in six words

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Overheard at a gay bar in London last weekend

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Dude 1: [Waiting in line]

Dude 2: [Pushes past Dude 1 and darts into stall]

Dude 1: [Slams on door]. Hey what the fuck?!

Dude 2: [Flush. Comes out of stall.]

Dude 1: Fuck you, faggot!

 

I don't think that's what people mean when they talk about minorities 'reclaiming' former slurs.  

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Jane Goody: High-trash class

I lived in Britain (well, London) for a year, and the one thing I couldn't get over was how the class system bled into everything. Anecdotes beginning with 'I was in Budgens the other day …' were greeted with a wince. Formerly connotation-free personal habits, such as brushing my teeth, were suddenly signifiers. I was told at one point that I ate my toast in a lower-class way (i.e. sliced rectangularly. Common, don't you know.)

I've been watching with some interest the saga of Jane Goody, a British reality show contestant cum celebrity cum cancer victim who died this week:

The first time she was mentioned in the press, in May 2002, Jade Goody was described as a "pretty dental nurse, 20, from London". But 24 hours later, as she began her gobby, ignorant trajectory in the Big Brother house [It's a British reality show, Mom — Mike], The People went on the attack under the headline: "Why we must lob the gob". Before long it was open season. The Sun called her a hippo, then a baboon, before launching its campaign to "vote out the pig". The Sunday Mirror rejected porcine comparisons on the ground that it was "insulting – to pigs".

[…]

As her performance on Big Brother made clear, her years of formal education had left Jade Goody with little knowledge. She thought that a ferret was a bird and abscess a green French drink; that Pistachio painted the Mona Lisa; that Sherlock Holmes invented the flush lavatory; that East Anglia ("East Angular" in Jade-speak) was abroad; and that Rio de Janeiro was "a bloke, innit?"

[…]

By 2007, when she made her second visit to the Big Brother house on Celebrity Big Brother (alongside her surgically-enhanced mother Jackie), Jade Goody had become, by her own account, "the most 25th inferlential person in the world" and a bona fide celebrity. She was said to be worth £2-4 million, was the proud owner of three "footballers' wives" style homes, a £60,000 turbo-charged Range Rover and was the "author" of a best-selling autobiography.

 

The unexpected fourth ring of this circus came last year, when Goody announced that she had terminal cancer, and had only a few months to live. Thus followed the quickie-marriage to the convict, various TV specials and, somewhere in London, a team of BBC editors cueing up a slow-motion montage set to The Four Seasons.

I was in London for the first few years of the Jane Goody tabloid judgmento-frenzy, and I remember being amazed at the vitriol being aimed at this woman (who I had never heard of), who was just a reality show contestant, not a head of state or a powerful CEO. I shouldn't be surprised that the Daily Mail and the Sun are writing sober, thoughtful obituaries now that the target of their exclamation-pointed normativizing has become un-famous in the only way they will allow.

Any obituary that wants to note the broader social implications of Jane Goody should at least mention the following point:

Nobody wanted to stop and ask: why doesn’t Jade know much? Here’s why. Her mother was a seriously disabled drug addict, so Jade didn’t go to school much because she stayed at home to look after her. From the age of five she was in charge of doing the cooking and ironing and cleaning.

Jade explained: “As early as I could remember I’d spent my whole life trying to protect my mum – frantically hiding the stolen chequebooks she used to have lying around the house when the police barged in on one of their raids; desperately denying to the teachers at school that she’d hit me for fear of being sent to social services.”

Her father treated her even worse. He stashed a gun under her cot, and her first memory was of him shooting heroin in her bedroom, his eyes rolling back and his body juddering. Eventually, after periods in and out of prison, he was found dead from an overdose in the toilet of a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“He died without a single vein left in his body,” Jade explained. “In the end he’d injected every single part of it and all his veins had collapsed – even the ones in his penis.”

[…]

Go to any extremely unequal society – say, South Africa, or South America – and you will find a furiously suppressed sense of guilt. It’s hard not to ask, at the back of your mind: why am I here in this mansion, while they are in the slums? This guilt is resolved one way: by convincing yourself that the poor are sub-human, and don’t have feelings like you and me. Oh, the people in the barrios and townships? They’re animals! They stink! They’re stupid! Jade and Vicky and the labelling of the poor as “chavs” filled that role for us. They know nothing! They are repulsive!

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I finally uploaded the photos from London

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I went to a gay wedding this weekend in London

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British Airways paid 219 kroner each for these pictures

Here's some pictures I forgot to post from my layover-let in London earlier this month. To be honest, I could have taken an early-morning flight back to Copenhagen, but I opted for the 6.30 pm flight because I wanted to hang out in London for the day. The city was just melting out of the worst snowstorm in 20 years, so the streets were all gleamy and sled-streaked. I'm glad I stayed.

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British Airways pays it forward


Dear Mike

Thank you very much for your letter.

I am extremely sorry your journey was disrupted by the heavy snowfall across the in the beginning of February.  I know how it must have affected all your other travel arrangements, and been a long and tiring journey for you.

As a result many of our flights that day had to be cancelled or diverted.  Please be assured throughout this situation, our great concern was for our customers and the effect that it was having on your travel plans.  We did everything we could to protect as much of our flying programme as possible.  I am sorry your flight hat to be diverted to Prestwick airport.

I am sorry that we could not provide you with hotel accommodation for your unplanned stay in London.  The sheer volume of passengers caught up in this disruption caused a shortage of hotel rooms around the London area.  I am pleased you managed to make your own arrangements.

Thank you for sending in the receipts for your out of pocket expenses.  I have arranged a bank transfer of DKK875.00 to your given account.  Please allow up to two weeks until this amount is shown on your bank statement.

I am very grateful to you for following this up with us.  I hope we will have the opportunity in the near future to welcome you on board.

Best regards,

[BA Customer Service Lady]

Yes!

I'm amazed that companies even do this anymore. 'Specially airlines, whose current business model looks more unsustainable with each passing day (and plunging airliner). I stayed at a savage Paddington roachey, and literally subsisted on nothing but Brick Lane bagels for 24 hours, thinking this letter from BA would read something like 'it's not our fault it snowed. Nice try, you toffy thwallop', or however you say 'unrepentant homosexual' in Englandic. 

But they paid me totes back! I'm actually flying BA to London in a week to show some friends around and attend a wedding (!) where I'll be the best man (!!). Maybe I'll refrain from sexually harassing the stewards this time to express my gratitude.

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I love getting ID’d in Britain

Scanner, as my beer is swiped: Bleep!

Cashier: Sorry… Sir? Sorry… Um, but how old are you?

Me: 27. No, wait. 26. Why?

Cashier: We have to start IDing people, sorry.

Me, reaching for wallet: Oh, OK.

Cashier, handing over beer: Well have a nice day!

Me: Oh, so that was it? That was me being ID'd?

Cashier: Drive safe now!

 

 

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