Journal 016 – No one would do such things

‘No one would do such things..’

Those were Winston Churchill’s words regarding the possibility of war between France and Germany. Maybe Sir Winston didn’t apply the same philosophy to his tax affairs

Doesn’t get mentioned very often, but dear old Winston was not only a statesman, soldier, leader, writer, Prime Minister and artist – seems he was also a tax dodger

Churchill paid tax for the first 40 years of his life, then tax rates climbed to 50%. Authors could spread their tax over 3 years, but he’d long since spent his advances. No problem, he kept taking on new assignments

In 1925, Winston was appointed Chancellor, and responsible for the tax system. Trouble was, he himself owed a lot of tax, and couldn’t pay it

Obvious solution: summon the head of the Inland Revenue (now HMRC), Richard Hopkins, and ask for suggestions. Hopkins was a helpful fellow. He consulted with technical staff, then delivered a note written in his own hand, providing the solution – ‘swap income for capital’

A year later, Winston couldn’t live on a cabinet minister’s salary. Trouble was, Winston had ‘retired from writing’ as part of the ‘solution’ provided by the Inland Revenue

What to do? Hopkins was summoned again. This time, he was even more helpful – seems he drafted the handwritten note Churchill should send to him!

‘It should be OK’ Hopkins forecast, and it was! Some might think tax authority service standards have slipped since then!

Today, the National Archives house two thick Inland Revenue files documenting its dealings with Winston Churchill: the first was opened in 2004; the second remains closed until 2040!

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