Friday, June 09, 2006

A Perfect Storm

Wildly extrapolating from a tax case involving Richard Mabley and Judy Finnegan (the insipid British version of Oprah), The Sunday Times claimed that television ‘personalities’, footballers, and authors would no longer be able to claim the fees charged by their agents against tax. Even worse, this ruling would be applied retrospectively; everyone would not only have to pay back money claimed against tax this year, but for the six years previously.

Now, most authors have agents who take from between 10 and 20% of their clients’ earnings as fees. And most authors aren't exactly rolling in money; the average income of a freelance author in Britain is around £7000. Paying back money legitimately claimed against tax would be crippling. Naturally, this wild rumour-mongering agitated a lot of people and led the Society of Authors to send out an email reassuring anxious authors that they almost certainly wouldn’t be liable to pay back thousand of pounds (or millions of pounds in the case of mega-bestsellers like J.K. Rowling).

The Sunday Times’ story was in fact nonsense, as the British tax authorities were quick to point out. And now the case has just been settled in Richard and Judy’s favour. They can claim their agent’s fees against tax because they are, after all, entertainers; it seems that it was a good thing that Richard imitated Ali G. on breakfast TV.

Which leaves me wondering what the scaremongering was all about. Was it the usual excessive fact-free speculation that our press is so fond of these days? Or was it something more sinister? The Sunday Times story suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, wanted to claw back tax from celebrities to help make up a vast deficit in his budget - celebrities are soft targets because they don’t want to make the kind of fuss that would let people know how much they earn. And Gordon Brown is not only in line to become Prime Minister when Tony Blair finally steps down, he’s also believed to be rather more left wing than Blair. Some people aren’t happy about that. Was the whole story whipped up to besmirch the Chancellor’s good name, and lose him the support of a constituency of high-profile, vocal, left-leaning creative types?

If it was, it has succeeded only in whipping up a small but perfect storm of comment. It looks like J.K. Rowling will be writing the introduction to Gordon Brown’s next book after all.

2 Comments:

Blogger martyn44 said...

The Sunday Times, along with The Times, used to be the GB 'organ of record' - in other words, if it appeared in there you could believe it.
Then along came Mr Murdoch.
Now it is The Independent.
Believe what you read in the Times/Sunday Times? Hollow laughter.
When it comes to Mr Murdoch, the ocker who thinks he's a yank because that's the only way he can own a US television network, I'm with Dennis Potter. He called the cancer that killed him 'Rupert'. He is the cancer that is killing genuine political discourse in our society (even if he's not the whole of it)

June 22, 2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Let's agree not to get started on Fox News...

June 24, 2006 5:51 PM  

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