Only 73 Votes – But a Huge Percentage Gain!

Huge Percentage Gain?

73 Votes, Huge Percentage Gain – Well, I suppose that’s how a political spin-doctor would put it.

I have to admit to being slightly disappointed, and my own forecast was 180, which I hoped was erring on the cautious side, but…

Thanks to all 73 who did vote for me in Blackpool South.

The winner was the incumbent labour M.P. Gordon Marsden, who appears to work very hard for his constituents. I have already congratulated him on his victory with an increased majority which seems to have bucked the national trend so far.

In my home constituency of Blackpool North and Cleveleys, the incumbent Conservative M.P. Paul Maynard also won with an increased majority. He also appears to be a hard working person who cares for all the individuals in his constituency.

A one-all draw for the two major parties in Blackpool.

Blackpool South Results

Gordon Marsden (Labour) 13,548
Peter Anthony (Conservative) 10,963
Peter Wood (UKIP) 5,613
Duncan Royle (Green Party) 841
Bill Greene (Liberal Democrat) 743
Andy Higgins (Independent) 655
Lawrence Chard (Independent) 73

In Good Company

I’m not used to doing things and coming last, but neither am I afraid of doing so. At least I am in good company; the Green Party and Liberal Democrat  candidates also lost their deposits, as I did and also the other Independent Andy Higgins who was campaigning to raise awareness of Blackpool Football Club’s problems, and the dissatisfaction of its fans with the owners.

Back to the Day Job!

After what must have been one of the shortest campaigns, now it’s back to my day job, but part of this will be working to stop HMRC unfairly grabbing any more of our company’s money. Our company pays its fair share of tax (we collect and pay about £300,000 per annum), but I deeply resent it when HMRC make unfair demands, then hang on to £113,000 of our hard-earned money for more than a year before handing it back without a thank you, interest, or compensation. The catalytic reason for me standing for election was to try to draw attention the the fact that the HMRC Charter omits to state that it will be fair, to treat its “customers” fairly, or to be honest with them. I believe these are all shameful omissions which should be rectified as soon as possible.

 

H.M.R.C.’s Unfair Tax Grab

Unfair Tax Grab – Elsewhere, I have mentioned that HMRC treated our company, Chard (1964) Limited, unfairly, and heavy handedly. As I have mentioned it, I will give a brief outline here of the case:

HMRC Unfair Tax Grab for £114.000 Payment for VAT on Import of Exempt Gold Coins

In early October 2013, we received a C18 demand from Kay Akpinarlioglu, a Higher Officer in CITEX Operations of HMRC in Blackburn, Lancashire. This demanded that we pay H. M. Customs and Revenue over £114,000; or which more than £113,000 related to import VAT on exempt investment gold.

This was because three different import agents we use had submitted incorrect documents relating to seven different imports over a period of time. Two of these were for silver coins, which are subject to VAT, and import VAT on these was about £1,300; all of which we would have been able to reclaim on our next VAT return, so there would have been no loss to HMRC except for the temporary interest free loan we would have been making to them for an average of two months, a negligible amount. The remaining amount £113,000+ related to five other imports.

The letter stated that we would be able to reclaim the amount on our next quarterly return, subject to the usual rules. We rather stupidly believed her, and made the payment immediately, rather than to to resist and fight the demand. As it had arrive just after the start of a new VAT quarter, we knew we would have to wait four months until we got the refund. We did have the money in our account, but we had also started our major refurbishment work on our new office and showroom, in which we have invested the best part of £1 million, so we were concerned about the negative effect on our cash flow.

When we submitted our VAT return in January 2014, we were already anticipating the large repayment due to us to trigger a VAT inspection (taxmen don’t like giving money back). This duly happened, and we soon received the bad news that we could not reclaim the £113,000+ because it related to input VAT on exempt items. The nightmare began.

Some time after this, we identified that HMRC got their facts wrong on one of the five alleged gold import errors, and that our entry had been entirely accurate, so we advised HMRC of this, and after an unreasonable delay, we eventually got back the £16,000+ relating to that import.

This left more than £97,000 which HMRC had legally (?) coerced (suckered) us into paying, only to be told we could not have it back.

We requested a review of Akpinarlioglu’s original decision, only to be told she would not review it, as the 30 days time limit had passed, and we found ourselves in a kind of Catch 22 type situation.

I started weeks of work reading HMRC’s labyrinthine website, and we ended up employing a specialist VAT accountant, costing us thousands of pounds, who advised us, and started a complaint on our behalf. We also agreed to use arbitration, and were prepared to go to a VAT tribunal, and even higher if necessary. This resulted in a ruling that the original decision (by Akpinarlioglu) was wrong, and we would be reimbursed.

We eventually got our money back on 4th November 2014, once again after an unreasonable delay. So far we have not been offered or received any interest or compensation.

In parallel with the VAT accountants work, we also wrote to various Members of Parliament, including the two constituency M.P.s, for one home constituency, and the one where our business is located, the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Vince Cable. We worked with the Federation of Small Businesses (F.S.B.) to try to get media attention via a press release. The best response was from the Blackpool North M.P., but the replay he received from HMRC was largely irrelevant waffle, which failed to answer the questions asked. The main thrust of our letter was to try to get some senior person at HMRC to take a quick look at the situation, sort it our, and rectify it, and do so sooner rather than later.

While we were, and are, delighted to get our money back, I personally suffered a great amount of stress during the period of the affair, and I still feel appalled that HMRC can arbitrarily and unfairly pick on a victim, unfairly demand money, refuse to return it, and hang onto it unless or until forced to repay it. This is not right.

If you ever suffer from insomnia, try reading and understanding the HMRC website. It is littered with incomprehensible TLAs and FLAs (Three and Four Letter Acronyms). Most HMRC personnel probably know what they stand for and mean, but the lay reader is obliged to keek stopping to try to find what they stand for and mean. A glossary does exist someone in the bowels of the HMRC website, but try finding it!

I also re-read the HMRC Charter (Your Charter). I noticed one surprising omission, that nowhere does it state the HMRC will be fair, or act fairly. I believe this serious omission should be rectified as soon as possible, so that victims should not have to suffer as we did, and could expect fair treatment. In the last few days, I referred back to “Your Charter”, and noticed that while is states that HMRC expect you to be honest with them, it fails to make the reciprocal promise. Once again, I believe this is something  which should urgently by added toh the Charter.

Residual VAT

We received more bad news from the VAT inspector mentioned above. Because our outputs (sales) include both (VAT) taxable goods and exempt ones, we are apparently classed by HMRC as partially exempt. We know this is slightly illogical and ungrammatical, but that appears normal for HMRC. Because of this, any input VAT which we incur which can not be attributed directly to either taxable or exempt goods, gets classed as “Residual VAT”. Under the “Standard Method” e can only reclaim this in the proportion of our taxable sales. As about 90% of our sales are of exempt goods, we can therefore only get back about 10% of this residual VAT. Normally this does not affect us, as the amounts involved are below a threshold limit (from memory £7,500 per annum). Because of the substantial refurbishment costs of our new premises (about £600,000), our input tax is about £120,000; and we were looking at losing over £100,000 when we moved our business to the new premises.

AS we are entitled to, we have applied for a “Special Method”, but this was refused because “it was not easy enough to calculate or audit”. As a result, we took the decision to move only the taxable part of our business into the new premises, and leave the exempt part at our old place (we own both). The HMRC Residual VAT team have agreed that the standard method is not fair to us, can can withhold permission to use any special method at their discretion. It is incurring us extra costs, loss of efficiency, lost sales, reduced security, and other problems, but I am determined that we should not get ripped off yet again by HMRC.

We are working on improved integrated stock, sales, and customer databases, which would help, as a bonus side effect, us do the analysis more efficiently, and support a new request for a special method, and hopefully we will eventually be granted one. At the worst, we could retain the split working for 10 years, at which time, we could re-combine them without penalty.

It is not good that any business should have to spend more resources trying to protect itself from unfair tax, than it expends in running the productive part of its business. Most politicians do not understand this, probably because most of them have never run a business or even had a real job.

At times over the last two years, I have felt like selling up, closing down, and moving to Monaco or the Cayman Islands, and setting up a new business there.

Our company collects or pays about £300,000 per annum in various taxes. We are obliged to do this as an unpaid tax collector. Unlike employed tax officials, if we make a mistake we are punished heavily for it; if tax officials make mistakes, they seem to deny it, and are never penalised for it.

The Residual VAT team who came to see us seemed like nice people, but when I was complaining about losing a proportion of the residual VAT, they said that we were privileged to be able to sell exempt goods. I disagree with them, it is our customers, and other consumers and investors who are “privileged” (in fact they have a legal right) to buy investment gold and foreign exchange without paying VAT. There is no logical argument for denying a business from reclaiming VAT on its legitimate business expenses, even if it sells only exempt goods, because otherwise it becomes an indirect tax to consumers on exempt goods. This part of VAT treatment should also be rectified, although because it would mainly effect banks and other big financial entities, would probably not be very popular, and will probably never happen.

Governments and Politicians Failed to Spot the 2007/8/9 Financial Crisis

Failed to Spot the 2007/8/9 Financial Crisis

Financial Crisis - Wake Up Book Jacket
Wake Up! Survive and Prosper in the Coming Economic Turmoil Book Cover

Every politician and banker I have heard speak about it claims that nobody could have forecast the financial crisis which started in 2007, peaked in 2008, and ended in 2009.

Global Financial Credit and Banking Crisis – Foreseeable?

According to all the politicians, bankers, economists and others I have seen and heard in the media, nobody could have predicted it. I believe they are all dumb, I was expecting it, and I don’t actually consider that I was particularly clever or astute. Possibly I was lucky.

Wake Up – The Book

Sometime before it all happened, probably in 2006, a customer who was buying some gold coins from us mentioned that he had seen our name in a book. Although I was used to getting media mentions, it was the first time I was told we were in a book. I was intrigued, and asked what book. The customer get it from his bag and showed me the book and the mention of our website, of which I remain quite proud. I noted the book title, and ISBN, and ordered a copy the same day.

The authors, Jim Mellon and Al Chalabi described in simple terms the general world situation, what was wrong, what was going to happen. I found I understood and agreed with most of what they said, and I was convinced they were sound in their judgments. I published a brief review on one of our websites.

Over the next few years, almost everything they forecast actually happened, even if they got some of the fine detail wrong. I felt quite smug knowing that I was one of a tiny minority who had been granted a sneak preview of the future. Probably the most notable part for me was in Part Two – The Global Economy is Under Threat: Financial Instruments of Mass Destruction, a chapter about derivatives.

The crises had started in 2006 when the U.S. housing market bubble burst. Despite this, banks were still making sub-prime loans to borrowers who could never have repaid, and the banks failed to crash. This was partly because many of the loans were underwritten by the U.S. government via Fannie Mae and Fredit Mac, but also because banks started using Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs), and Credit Default Swaps (CDSs).

The big credit rating agencies were suckered into carelessly giving many of these complex documents a triple A risk rating. These were then sold on to large and small banks and other financial institutions in the U.S.A., and worldwide. This was always a meteoric crash waiting to happen. Lehman Brothers, a key player, went bust, as did many other banks and insurance companies. A few, such as John Paulson saw it coming, and made his hedge fund $15 billion betting on it

We were kept very busy for the next few years trying to meet investor physical demand for “Investment Gold”, in the form of gold coins and small (one kilo and under) gold bars.

Lucky or Smart?

So was I lucky in being shown the book, or was I smart for reading it?, probably both, but the luck came first. Nobody else has ever mentioned this book to me, and I guess it was never widely read at the time. I still have it lying round somewhere, and I keep meaning to re-read it; there are still things it mentioned which are relevant today, and events which have not yet happened. Actually, with hindsight I was not so smart. I could and should have made millions by taking out a few out-of-the-money “put” options on a number of highly leveraged banks, even though I don’t normally gamble. I will try to do better next time.

But, if I was not as smart as I should have been, what about the others? The bankers who were part of it, politicians and governments. In the United Kingdom, we had the Blair Brown Labour government. Gordon Brown who used to trumpet his financial prudence, but who famously sold almost 400 tonnes of Britain’s gold reserves at or very close to the absolute bottom of the market. He also removed some of the Bank of England’s regulatory powers, which action is generally regarded by most experts as contributing to and exacerbating the British banking crisis, starting with Northern Rock.

It may sound as if I am bashing the previous Labour government, and yes I am, but fairly and justifiably I hope. What still astounds me all these years later is that no Labour politician from those days has ever admitted they should have foreseen the general crisis or the British banking and credit crisis. Even more astonishing is that no other politician of any colour has pointed it out. Presumably none of them foresaw, and are now too embarrassed to speak out about it, because the obvious question they would face is why they failed to shout about it before it happened, or even while it was taking place. Any of them could have bought and read a £12.99 book and become an instant expert forecaster.

I have now found my copy of Wake Up!, and will be reading it again soon. I am sure it still contains much relevant information today. I would strongly advise George Osborne, Ed Balls, and Vince Cable to get their own copy of this book and read it. You dear reader could do the same, and no, I don’t get any commission from the authors or publisher!

Why Vote for Lawrence Chard? Would it be a Wasted Vote?

Would it be a Wasted Vote

Would it be a wasted vote for an unknown independent such as Lawrence?

Not necessarily.

Dare to Be Different!

If you think our politicians, or all M.P.s are the same, think again. Firstly I am not a politician, secondly, I am completely independent of any political party, I am an original thinker, using facts, analysis and logic to make decisions, rather than blind, pre-conditioned thinking.

Do you fancy making a protest vote? In the 2015 General Election, only just over 35,000 votes were cast in Blackpool South. The electoral roll contains 65,000 registered voters. If just half of those, presumably disaffected 30,000 voters cast their vote for me, I would get more than enough to win.

If I were elected, or even if I got a substantial number of votes, it might send a message to all the party politicians that you don’t like them, and would prefer a change. It would be like sticking two fingers up at the major parties.

A vote for Gordon Marsden, who has been the labour M.P. for Blackpool South since 1997, may see Ed Milliband as Prime Minister in a coalition with the Scottish Nationalist Party (S.N.P.). While I believe Gordon has been a very hard working M.P., and appears to have worked well for his local constituents, now may be the right time for a change, in view of the above scenario.

I may be the only candidate born and raised in the constituency, with a business which has also been in the Blackpool South constituency for over 50 years.

I would push for a guarantee of fair and honest treatment of all taxpayers by H.M.R.C. (the taxman). This should benefit almost everybody in Blackpool South.

I do have a successful track record of running a small business, currently employing 16 people. I have always run the business fairly, honestly, competitively, transparently, without government handouts or subsidies. I believe governments should spend and invest money in the same careful way that business owner-managers tend to do, boldly at times, but with care and thought, and an aim at efficiency and productivity. I may be the only candidate who had had a proper job.

I do have a list of other thoughts, philosophies and policies on my policy page, some of which, where needed, may be or appear quite radical, some may appear quite mundane and conservative.

Don’t Vote For Me If:

You are a career criminal.

You are not prepared for change or independent thought.

 

Policies and Philosophy

 Policies and Philosophy

My Policies and Philosophy, It is extremely unlikely that I will be elected, and if it did happen, a single independent M.P. would not be able to dictate policy, especially as we are not in Russia, and we don’t use Kalashnikovs to dictate policy, so instead I will list a number of guiding thoughts.

Thoughts Philosophy and Ideas

HMRC to add a statement to its Charter to promise to be fair and honest, and to treat its counterparties fairly.

Law and Order

Toughen up on crime and punishment. Make criminals pay fully for the damage, and harm they have caused. Change sentencing policy to include lifestyle and the value or cost of the criminal to society. Reintroduce capital punishment, although this will probably need us to quit the E.U. Prisoners should work to pay for their cost in addition to repaying victims. Where the repayment term exceeds their life expectation, we should offer them an alternative, a cyanide pill would be my suggestion. This would eliminate re-offending. I could make Draco appear to be a liberal softie.

European Union

Leave the E,U. In 1973, we joined the E.E.C. (the European Economic Community). It was later renamed the E.C., followed by E.U. We do not need a referendum on this. It is clear that Germany, France, and politicians from some of the other leading members want a federal European state and parliament. This is not what we signed up for.

Leaving the E.U. should allow us to control immigration. Australia provide a good model for this. There would undoubtedly be extra costs and problems for some, mainly larger businesses, but these could and would mainly adapt as usual.

Budget, Spending and Taxes

Initially, maintain the existing budget, making the smallest changes possible rather than major lurches. Aim for fiscal surplus. We should never burden future generations with reckless spending.

Government Subsidies

Remove subsidies for windfarms, solar power, and other alternative energy sources. I do believe we should invest in renewable energy, but only when it is economically sound to do so. Subsidies distort economics, and lead to poor investment spending choices.

Defence

Maintain defence spending in line with our NATO commitments. We need to be more strongly pro-active against terrorism of all kinds.

National Health Service

N.H.S. services should be maintained. We should stop health tourism, and charge non U.K. citizens a commercial rate for treatment. We should try to recover costs for self-inflicted injuries and problems. One idea might be to have individual lifetime accounts. A basic and major problem is that the range of treatments and treatable conditions has mushroomed since the N.H.S was formed, and we all seem to expect to be treated and cured regardless of cost. It might be useful if the retail price of drugs, and possibly the price charged to the NHS were shown to patients when they collect prescriptions or get them dispensed. This would help to cut excess costs in two ways. If patients were aware that some over the counter medicines cost only pence, they may opt to pay for their own instead of letting pharmacies charge the NHS, and may get them without needing to see a G.P. to do so, saving further costs, and freeing up doctors’ time. I also heard of one case where a little old lady commented about a £500 inhaler she was being prescribed, “Don’t worry I never use it, and I already have 23 of them at home”. If she knew the cost to the NHS, she may have saved it thousands of pounds much earlier.

Education

Education. I firmly believe our educational standards have dropped considerably in my lifetime, yet technology has become more important. Numeracy seems to considered as optional, yet has become more important. Literacy is also vital, yet appears to have declined. We also need to include respect and responsibility in education. Unruly and disruptive behaviour should not be tolerated, teachers should not fear confrontation by children or their parents. We should also give more practical life lessons, such as how to cook or clean, how to read food labelling, nutrition, how to know what marketing propaganda to believe, and much more.

M.P.s Pay

If we want good Members of Parliament,  we should expect to pay them a competitive rate for the job. There should be stronger measures against them fiddling their expenses, accepting bribes in whatever form, whether it be cash for questions, sponsorship, donations or other oblique and opaque methods. I am not likely to benefit from this, and am certainly not doing this for the money.

Social Behaviour

Zero tolerance. This is too easy a sound bite, and should sensibly be called low tolerance. We need to get back to a society where everyone has and shows respect for their community, neighbours, and country. We should not ignore or tolerate low level antisocial behaviour. Littering may sound unimportant, but it is a selfish act, and we all end up paying for our local councils to clean it up.

Employment

Governments cannot create employment, or at least, not economically. We should be realistic and stop expecting politicians to be able to create full employment.

Drug Abuse

Drugs. There are arguments for the controlled legalisation of recreational drugs. I believe it would be better is we could use education to reduce their use, but this does not seem to have worked very effectively. It seems there is a large minority of people who are stupid enough to want to abuse drugs, and who appear not to know, or want to know about the consequences, including long term health impairment, and more senseless drain on our health services.

Big Business

Big Business. As a business owner, you may expect me to be pro business, but I am extremely sceptical about the ethics and behaviour of many of our largest companies. I am unhappy that big businesses exert too much influence on politicians in the U.K. and worldwide. Some spend millions, even billions, on trying to influence governments to legislate, or not as the case may be, in their favour. I could cite two examples. The tobacco companies have recently been trying to force governments not to impose plain packaging. We all know that tobacco is harmful to health, but the principal job of tobacco companies is ensure as many people as possible become addicted to their products. If that is not unethical, I don’t know what is. The so-called ethical drug companies are known to hide and distort research which shows their products in a bad light. They also mark products as safe in some countries, even when they have had to withdraw or give warnings about the same products in other, stricter, countries. I believe this is an extremely cynical and unethical way to treat the health and lives of ordinary people just so the companies can maximise their profits. We need consumer protection laws which would ensure manufacturers and suppliers would accept strict legal liability for the safety of their products.

Transport

Transport. I currently believe that HS2 is a flag-waving propaganda exercise, and is not likely to repay its considerable costs. Railways are still hugely subsidised in the U.K., while road transport is heavily taxed. This is a typical example of government and political distortion of economic market, which inevitably leads to waste. I am aware that road transport arguably causes more pollution, but some of the worst polluters of older designs of diesel engines in buses. Diesel engines are getting bad press recently, but new modern diesels have particulate filters, which help if properly maintained.

It is time the driving test was made more comprehensive. One good idea is for the current style test to be redesignated as an intermediate step, allowing those drivers who pass to drive solo, but with an “R” sticker for a limited period before they take a full test which should be the equivalent of the advanced driving courses and tests promoted and operated by bodies such as the Institute of Advanced Motorists. This would cost new drivers more, but should improve road safety for all users, and probably bring long term benefits through NHS and other savings. It should also help to keep insurance premiums in check, saving fully qualified drivers money.

 

Lawrence Chard to Stand for 2015 U.K. Parliamentary Election

Parliamentary Election – Lawrence Chard to Stand

Lawrence Chard to Stand for 2015 U.K. Parliamentary Election, I`m not known for any previous political interests or ambitions, but have put my name down for election as a Member of Parliament for the Blackpool South Consitutency in the May 7th 2015 General Election.

Independent Candidate

I am standing as an Independent candidate in the Parliamentary Election , but if I were allowed to add further description to my nomination form or the voting form, it would say “for Fair Tax”

Thoughts and Philosophies

In the next few days I will add a list of thoughts and philosophies which would underlie any policies which I would espouse or support. I do not intend to issue anything as grandiose or pompous sounding as a manifesto.