Point of View – The Tax Adviser

James Skellorn
James Skellorn recently wrote this article which appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times on 29th July 2014.

This is how it seems to me. You are here. You want to go to there. Between here and there lies what appears to be an open stretch of water which is unknown to you. I am your pilot, and I know there are hidden rocks, mud banks, false channels and rip tides that can lose you, your cargo and maybe even your vessel. Some are natural hazards, but for the most part we are in a seascape created entirely by the government.

Shifting sands mean the channels change regularly. I have to go out and study them often to make sure I know the right way to go. So you ask me to be your pilot. The path we steer to there is often not a straight one. We wind our way round the hazards, weaving this way and that. My job is to get you there with the minimum loss of cargo and minimum dues for the passage. I stay with you for the journey. Sometimes as we make our circuitous path, you look at me questioningly wondering whether this is all really necessary. It all seems rather artificial.

When we get there you pay me my hire, and you go on your way, no doubt troubled by the cost of pilotage fees these days.

Sometimes the government creates a new channel. This is always interesting. Sometimes the new channel creates a bold new way through, the hazards, and life becomes easier. Sometimes the new channel is deceptive, and it turns out to be shallow and as full of hazards as the old way.

That is tricky enough, but now the government say that everyone going from here to there must lose “the right amount” of cargo. It is not exactly clear how much this is. Of course the government could mark the hazards clearly, and indicate the channel with absolute clarity with buoys and seamarks. Then you could find your way along without me.

Recently the government created a navigation simplification scheme, to make it easier for everyone. However, they have been working it out for years and it is all more confusing than ever.

OK, I confess: metaphor stretched way beyond breaking point!

James Skellorn is a senior partner and head of the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Ipswich.