Friday, 22 April 2016

Green Party Councillor Exposes developer British Land's Tax Haven Dealings

A Green Party councillor is challenging Lancaster City Council on its dealing with Canal Corridor developer British Land, after discovering its links with an offshore tax haven.

Green Party Councillor Tim Hamilton-Coxt has researched developer British Land and found it is holding its Canal Corridor property in the offshore tax haven of Jersey. After the justified furore over the Panama Papers, Councillor Cox is now calling on the City Council to make a stand against tax avoidance in Lancaster by freezing negotiations with British land, until the company commits to making all of its transactions and potential development profits in Lancaster (and arguably in the UK) subject to UK tax.

In 2008, Tim Hamilton-Cox uncovered the fact that the city council's then partner (Centros) in the development of the Canal Corridor site was controlled by a Centros company registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven. Conservative and Labour councillors dismissed the Greens' concerns at the time. Their general attitude was that "Everyone's at it - so what can we do?"; one Labour councillor asserted that the fact of being based offshore was "not directly relevant."

Now, Councillor Hamilton-Cox has found that the city council's current development partner, British Land (BL), owns its property in the Canal Corridor through a Jersey property unit trust.

He says: “Years later the Labour-led city council is still actively engaging with a company, British Land, which is controlling its Lancaster assets in a tax haven. I believe that this is sending entirely the wrong message – that basically it's okay if companies try to avoid tax by using offshore arrangements. As we all know, this ultimately reduces the tax available to pay for public services.

"Last week, the leader of the council was optimistic about negotiations with British Land leading to a planning application which would include development of the city council's land-holding. Greens think that the city council should freeze negotiations concerning city council-owned land in the Canal Corridor until BL brings back to the UK ownership of land in Lancaster so that all its transactions and development profits here (if not the UK as a whole) are subject to UK tax.

"We have to call time on dealing with businesses that use offshore 'shell' companies to avoid tax and stop accepting it as some sort of business norm. I hope that Cat Smith MP will support this call given her strong condemnation of tax avoidance in the Lancaster Guardian last week."

In 2014 Councillor Hamilton-Cox led on a successful motion at full council which required companies wanting to do business with the city council to self-certify that they did not engage in tax avoidance measures as a condition of doing business with the city council. This motion has yet to be implemented in council procurement policy - despite a number of prompts from Councillor Hamilton-Cox that action should be taken.

UPDATE, 25th May 2016: Over on the British Land web site, they point out that because British Land is is a REIT, it must follow certain rules relating to money it distributes to shareholders, and how those distributions are taxed.

Their statement on their tax situation reads as follows:
90% of the tax-exempt profit from British Land's property rental business has to be distributed to shareholders. This is called Property Income Distribution, or 'PID'. British Land can also distribute income from its other activities, known as Non-Property Income Distribution, or 'non-PID'.

Dividends can be entirely PID, entirely non-PID, or a split between the two; the Board will decide the most appropriate split on a dividend-by-dividend basis. Sometimes the treatment of the Scrip Dividend Alternative may be different to the treatment of the cash dividend.

The tax treatment of PID and non-PID dividends is different. Non-PID dividends are treated like "normal" dividends paid by non-REIT companies. From 6 April 2016 the tax free Dividend Allowance will apply to non-PID dividends. Previously a tax credit of 10% was deemed to be deducted from the non-PID dividend payment.

Because PID dividends are paid out of British Land's tax-exempt profits, they are potentially taxable in the shareholders' hands as property letting income. PID dividends are usually paid to shareholders after the deduction of withholding tax at the basic rate of income tax (20%).

More detailed information can be found here and on the Reita website., it must follow certain rules relating to money it distributes to shareholders, and how those distributions are taxed.

90% of the tax-exempt profit from British Land's property rental business has to be distributed to shareholders. This is called Property Income Distribution, or 'PID'. British Land can also distribute income from its other activities, known as Non-Property Income Distribution, or 'non-PID'.

Dividends can be entirely PID, entirely non-PID, or a split between the two; the Board will decide the most appropriate split on a dividend-by-dividend basis. Sometimes the treatment of the Scrip Dividend Alternative may be different to the treatment of the cash dividend.

The tax treatment of PID and non-PID dividends is different. Non-PID dividends are treated like "normal" dividends paid by non-REIT companies. From 6 April 2016 the tax free Dividend Allowance will apply to non-PID dividends. Previously a tax credit of 10% was deemed to be deducted from the non-PID dividend payment.

Because PID dividends are paid out of British Land's tax-exempt profits, they are potentially taxable in the shareholders' hands as property letting income. PID dividends are usually paid to shareholders after the deduction of withholding tax at the basic rate of income tax (20%).

More detailed information can be found here and on the Reita website.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Local Cinema Round-Up for the 20th to 28th April 2016

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day  listings of what's showing on local screens every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

Three new films make it to the local screens during this period. There is family animation with A Warrior's Tail (PG); action and adventure with Bastille Day (15) and drama based on true life in The Man who knew Infinity. In addition, the following movies have made a re-appearance; Capture the Flag and Spotlight.

Adult drama comes this period with the well received 10 Cloverfield Lane, the biopic Eddie the Eagle the excellent military drama Eye in the Sky and the newly released Bastille Day. Horror is represented with The Boy and Friend Request whilst fantasy comes with Midnight Special and The Huntsman: Winter's Tale.

Superhero confrontation is on offer with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Also the Vue is having a Captain America marathon on the 28th April with First Avenger; Winter Soldier and the forthcoming Civil War.

Comedy during this period is provided by My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Marguerite.

For family entertainment there is The Jungle Book; Kung Fu Panda 3; Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie and Zootropolis.

There is a single entry in the category of high culture with ROH Live: Lucia Di Lammermoor.

Reviews

Eye in the Sky
Director: Gavin Hood
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman
Colonel Katherine Powell (Mirren) is tasked with capturing a terrorist who is attending a meeting in Kenya. The meeting room is bugged and a drone used to provide surveillance. Powell discovers the terrorists are actually planning suicide bombing attacks and so she seeks authority to call in a missile attack on the building. However there is a chance any attack will result in civilian casualties. The movie is a gripping and well received drama that explores some of the moral issues of drone warfare.

Friend Request
Director: Simon Verhoeven
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers
Laura (Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student and an avid user of social media. She received a friend request from an unknown girl Marina (Ahlers) but finds her new friend is stalking her. Subsequently Marina commits suicide but her spirit continues to stalk Laura. Despite some occasional rough lines, this is an effective horror story that delivers enough twists to keep the plot interesting and provides some real scares.

The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Certificate: PG Cast includes: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba
Based on Rudyard Kipling's works, this is a reworking of a the well known classic using live action and CGI. Mowgli (Sethi) is an orphaned boy raised by a wolf and thence by Bagheera (Kingsley) a black panther. Mowgli alienates the Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Elba) and so must make his way to humankind for safety, meeting the well known characters Baloo and Kaa on the way. Subsequently he returns to the jungle to face Shere Khan. The movie is a good example a remake that improves on the original. An excellent movie that will entertain all ages.

Zootropolis (Zootopia)
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Certificate: PG
Cast includes: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman
This is a comedy animation set in the city of Zootropolis which is populated by animals. Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is a rabbit rookie police officer. She parters with a con-artist fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) to solve the mystery of a missing husband. An excellently made fun movie that will appeal to a wide range of ages.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

April Showers bring May Stories from the North West Literary Salon



The North West Literary Salon will be celebrating both its one year anniversary and the close of Spring with a special edition salon on Friday 6th May 2016 at Waterstones on King Street.

Authors Sophie Duffy, Essie Fox and Paul McVeigh will be on hand for a literary celebration and their engaging readings will be followed by a lively discussion along with delicious locally-catered food from Filbert’s Bakery and music performed by a local musician.

Order free tickets to the event here from Eventbrite.

The North West Literary Salon is sponsored by Lancaster University Public Engagement with Research, the Friends and Alumni of the University and Grad College and supported by Lancaster Arts City. North West Literary Salon is a BBC Get Creative event

More about the Salon here: https://northwestliterarysalon.wordpress.com