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Sir Philip Green: Monegasque tax avoidance and an American solution

6th May 2016
Partner An unnamed firm
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Why am I surprised to learn that the man of the moment, Sir Philip Green happens to have a wife resident in a tax haven?

I thought that I had heard it all but now a new concept in tax avoidance has come into vogue. We are probably all familiar with the offshore bank account, the temporary non-residence and dubious artificial schemes to get around overly complex tax legislation.

However, the more naive, rather embarrassingly including The Imprudent Accountant in their number, had not been previously been privy to that fine strategy, the offshore wife. It almost goes without saying that such an arrangement just happens to involve a sunny tax haven frequented by the rich and famous.

Clearly, there is very little wrong with this plan since the lady in question is Lady Green, wife of the ennobled owner of Arcadia and formerly of the now sadly defunct BHS, Sir Philip Green.

As the soon-to-be ex-employees of what it turns out is the ironically named British Home Stores contemplate penury in retirement having seen their pension go down the drain, it seems that much of the wealth that some of us might erroneously have attributed to the knight who marched them at the top of the hill and then march them down again actually belongs to his dear lady who just happens to be resident in Monaco.

Like me, many of you might have imagined that , following the loss of Princess Grace, the attractions of the tiny principality would stretch little further than an annual Grand Prix and rather nice weather.

Media coverage over the weekend suggests that the main motivation might well have been a familial opportunity to reduce tax liabilities in the UK to levels that you and I could never hope to achieve, and even Starbucks or Google might envy.

I never thought that I would say this but perhaps it is time for us to emulate the Americans.

Their wholly unreasonable and unfair tax system catches not only residents but also those that were born in the Land of the Free. This throws up ridiculous anomalies where someone can decamp as a babe in arms and still be liable to pay tax three generations later.

On the other hand, it does mean that those wishing to make the most of tax havens might find that there is little advantage.

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