The golden ticket

Golden Ticket and chocolate bar
Image credit

“There are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is splashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.” (Boris Johnson)

Ah, Boris …

It’s been surreal and now it’s over, so to wrap things up, here’s my Olympics’ highs and lows:

First, Yorkshire unofficially coming 12th in the medal table, after Japan – seven gold medals, two silver and three bronze.

Well, ah’ll go to t’foot of ahr stairs.

(Translation:I’m a tad surprised but it’s a proud moment for this Yorkshire lass’).

Second, HMRC jumping the gun with their baleful ‘advice’ on the tax implications of selling an Olympic torch or donating it to charity.  A mid-summer ‘bah, humbug’ moment if ever there was one.

Third, Usain Bolt, having won three gold medals, objecting to the UK tax regime that grabs a share of his global sponsorship and endorsement earnings, as well as any appearance fee, when he competes in Britain (other than at London 2012).

So incensed is The Bolt that he’s resolved not to compete here ’til Burnham Wood do come to Dunsinane, or to put it another way:

“As soon as the law changes I’ll be here all the time,” Bolt is quoted as saying.

The Bolt may be racing in the UK on a Zimmer frame the next time.

Fourth, going on the Emirates Air Line, the new cable car linking the Excel Centre with the stadium formerly known as O2, with an old school friend who was visiting from Melbourne.  (She’s the one who found me the osteopath in Tanunda – have a look at the October 2011 blog if you’ve no idea what I’m on about).  Our excursion could loosely be described as a field trip, since I was considering whether to put in a response to HMRC’s consultation on a reduced rate of VAT for small cable-suspended transport systems.  Good job we went when we did because a week later it broke down because of the wrong type of heat.  Anyway, it seems that it’s too big to qualify as small.

EU law allows a reduced rate of VAT for ‘the transport of passengers’.  Praying in aid the well-known maxim of the UK statutory draftsman, ‘One word good, more words better,’ this simple phrase has been put through the mill so that in the UK the reduced rate applies to the ‘transport of passengers in any vehicle, ship or aircraft designed or adapted to carry not less than ten passengers’.  ‘Why ten?’ I hear you cry.  No idea.  Until 2001 it was twelve – was it reduced because we’re getting fatter or is it decimalisation’s fault?

This tortuous definition has spawned a number of tax cases (such as Lecht Ski Company) in which HMRC ultimately got their way with the pronouncement that each chair, gondola, pod etc. in a cable-suspended transport system, and not the system as a whole, is the ‘vehicle,’ so if that vehicle is not capable of carrying ten people, the standard rate of VAT applies, even if it would otherwise be ‘the transport of passengers’.

Having been hoist by their own drafting petard, and, presumably, lobbied by Great Orme Cable Cars of Llandudno, HMRC are now proposing that a 5% VAT rate should be applied to the ‘transport of passengers by means of a cable-suspended chair, bar, gondola or similar vehicle designed or adapted to carry less than ten passengers’.  Even more words, goody.

Enough of that.  Here’s my final Olympic high:

The sight of Boris at the closing ceremony dancing to the Spice Girls.  Like a worm on a hot spade, as my Nan used to say.

Off now to wrestle with the LOCOG website in an effort to get some tickets for the Paralympics.  Haven’t you heard?  It’s the new Olympic sport, along with women’s boxing.

Tax lawyer specialising in business tax, SDLT and VAT

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