Open your wallet...
28 October 2021 | and repeat after me - "Help Yourself"
I've never really been one for small talk. Some happy souls can rattle off for hours in relaxed, animated conversation with someone they've never met before, and with whom they have nothing whatsoever in common. I can usually manage about 4 ½ minutes before I run out of inspiration, tolerance, prescription painkillers, and the will to live. Nevertheless, it is difficult to avoid completely, and it does serve a useful societal purpose in establishing common ground, determining relative status, and assessing the likelihood of future relations being based on anything other than mutual loathing.JESUS H. CHRIST!
A favourite tactic is the "Where are you from?" gambit. This is usually followed by something along the lines of "Oh, the university of Sussex, eh? You must know my second cousin twice removed, Henry. I forget his surname, but he's a cleaner in the Social Studies Department - or was it Anthropology? Something like that." This usually elicits a response in the form of "Oh I must know him - after all, there's only twenty thousand of us there." Then, almost inevitably, there follows a supplementary...
Nowadays, our default response to the initial enquiry vis-á-vis our origins is to say 'Jersey'. Neither of us was born in Jersey, but Liz has lived there since she was four, and I moved there fifty-plus years ago, so it's the nearest either of us have got to a home. Without fail, the ritual plods relentlessly along its tedious, well-trodden path:
Man In Tank Top and Ill-fitting Wig: "Jersey, eh? You must know Lill. Lill Reece, or Rhys. Wait a minute - could have been Rees. Or Reese, now I think about it. Something like that, anyway. She was the barmaid at the Fort D'Auvergne hotel when we spent our honeymoon there in 1963. Came from Cardiff, or was it Swansea? Somewhere in Scotland, anyway. You must know her. Everyone knew Lill. Give her my regards."
Me: "Oh absolutely. I must know her - after all, there's only 100 000 of us. She must be about a hundred and four by now - that should narrow it down a bit. I'll start scouring the local care homes as soon as I can wrench myself away from this blatant breach of both the Geneva Convention and the 8th amendment to the US constitution."
Then comes the inevitable, predictable, supplementary:
"Jersey, huh? Tax exile, are you? I'll bet you're sitting on a pretty pile."
Resisting the temptation to appraise him fully of the full visual horror of my haemorrhoids, I boot up the well-worn sub-routine titled 'I am not a bloody tax exile' and let it run on auto while I go off into reveries of acid baths and verdicts of justifiable homicide. The gist of the sub-routine runs thus:
Jersey has a reputation as a tax haven. This evaluation is strongly disputed by The Great and The Good (or perhaps the Not-so-good) there, who argue that The Island's (1) popularity with the entitled, the light-fingered and the loaded is purely down to the unparalleled quality of the imaginative financial services offered and the knowledge, expertise and acumen of the myriad financial wizards that ply their arcane trade from this sceptred isle.
Yeah, Right (2)
It is certainly indisputable that the place attracts more than its fair share of the rich, the super-rich, the unbelievably rich and the just plain obscenely rich. Most people are aware of this. What most people don't appreciate is that these interlopers are but the tip of the iceberg. You don't have to reside in Jersey to be able to park your money there, away from prying eyes and inquisitive relatives, tax inspectors, soon-to-be-ex spouses, the Serious Fraud Office or UN war crimes tribunals. In fact, most of those who take advantage of the Island's somewhat accommodating arrangements rarely, if ever, visit the place in person.
It is virtually impossible to determine anything about the 1(1)k residents as they are cryptically known. Trying to get any information out of any Jersey institution, about anything, at any time, for any reason, is like trying to pull teeth with a pair of eyebrow tweezers. Even something as anodyne as the actual number of High Net Worth Individuals (Tax liability ≥ ₤ 150k p.a. at a flat rate of 20%) resident in Jersey appears to be a closely guarded state secret. The best estimates I've managed to get are around 200 to 300 tops. That's about 0.25% of the population. So it's no surprise that you never see one. It's unusual to find yourself behind Nigel Mansell in the food queue at M&S or sitting next to the Barclay Brothers as they demolish a couple of kebabs on the late-night number 15 bus. And you never bump into Roman Abramovich in the public bar of the Soleil Levant. The nearest I've come to it in a lifetime was bumping into Phil Jupitus carrying a suspiciously large attaché case through arrivals at Jersey airport. I've come into contact with fifty times that many celebs and modern-day robber barons while running a bar in Praia da Luz for four years. I've heated a milk bottle for Rick Wakeman's baby, you know (3).
So - around 250 tax exiles out of a population of 100 000 means that if you meet a Jersey resident there's a 1 in 400 chance that he (it's usually a he) is a tax exile. Put another way, there's a 399 in 400 chance that he's not.
"But Bob," I hear you cry in frustration, "what's all this got to do with cruising which, after all, is the purported theme of the blog and the only reason we log on to it and subject ourselves to this pointless, opinionated drivel (4)?"
O.K. - I'll tell you, since you're so interested.
Well, and Brexit, but I promised not to talk about that anymore.
The point, to which I was about to get before you interrupted, is that although we may reside in Jersey, we are certainly no tax exiles. This is, in fact, not only The Point, but a sore one to boot. What's made us so sensitive on the matter is that we've just been stiffed by the Jersey taxman.
Prior to That Whose Name Shall Remain Unspoken, our UK passports made the whole world our oyster. Well, Europe anyway. We could flit between Jersey, France, Spain, Portugal - anywhere in the EU - with impunity. Not now. Now we are limited to 90 days out of 180, and that is a right royal pain in the arse. To try to mitigate the effects of this, we decided to relocate from Jersey and make ourselves resident in a Schengen country before the transition period dribbled to an inconclusive end. We chose Portugal, on the grounds that we had contacts there, spoke the language (to a degree), knew the culture (to a lesser degree) and the authorities seemed intent on facilitating, indeed encouraging immigration. After managing to vault the customary obstacle course of bureaucratic hurdles, we succeeded in getting our Portuguese residencias. You can't, however, be resident in two different places at the same time - a sort of bureaucratic interpretation of the Pauli Exclusion Principle. So, when I filled in my state of the art, digital, online, Jersey 2020 tax return, I looked at the question "Were you resident in Jersey throughout the year in question?" and ticked the box marked 'no'.
Several weeks later I received an electronic billet-doux containing our tax assessment. I casually flicked the file open, expecting the usual modest increase that had characterised earlier incarnations of this classic example of the official version of demanding money with menaces.
It had more than doubled. How in the name of all that's holy did they manage to come up with that figure? Our pensions had increased by 0.9%. What possible justification could the grasping, avaricious bastards have for increasing our tax liability by 233% ?
Find out in the next, unedifying, instalment of 'Open Your Wallet', coming soon to a computer screen near you.
(1) The locals rarely refer to the place as 'Jersey', but usually call it 'The Island' (mentally capitalised).
(2) Delightful, though probably apocryphal story:
Lecturer: " If Mr Jagger can't get no satisfaction, then he must, perforce, get some satisfaction. In English, two negatives will make a positive, but two positives will never make a negative."
Student at back: "Yeah, Right!"
(3) Well, actually, I didn't - Liz did. But I took the order.
(4) © Name & address withheld. I'm still awaiting his permission to publish his coruscating hatchet-job on the blog.