Tag: Fair

Does the Queen Pay Her Fair Share of Taxes? It Helps to Have the Government on Your Side

Photo credit: SOPA Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: SOPA Images – Getty Images

From Town & Country

No one likes paying taxes and heads of state are no exception. This fact was hammered home last week when the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump, through a series of complex accounting moves, paid minimal tax while in office and even less before he was elected.

Usually governments do everything they can to collect money (Trump, in fact, is being audited by the IRS), but sometimes heads of state can avoid paying tax with the help of the state. For forty years, up until 1993, the British Queen enjoyed an income tax exemption thanks to the generosity of successive UK governments who played cat and mouse with Parliament and the media to keep the matter away from public scrutiny.

Why was it allowed in the first place and, more important, how much was it worth? Recently, some answers have begun to emerge from the vaults.

Photo credit: Scott Barbour - Getty Images
Photo credit: Scott Barbour – Getty Images

Panning for gems in the archives of the British royal family can be frustrating work given all the special privileges they are granted that prevent proper public scrutiny of their wealth, such as sealed wills and personal correspondence closed for a lifetime, but just occasionally you hit paydirt. After being refused more than 20 Freedom of Information requests while investigating the royal finances, I won one recently involving a cache of documents in the UK National Archives about a little-known 1989 review of the Civil List, the forerunner of today’s taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which pays for all the running costs of the British monarchy. The jewel in the cache was an official UK Treasury paper that revealed that the monarchy was in part funded through tax breaks for the Queen.

“The State provides for the monarchy in two ways: first through explicit finance (currently votes and the Civil List) and secondly by foregoing tax on the Sovereign’s private wealth.” The indiscreet 1989 tax memo went on to spell out why this was significant: “In practice it should be noted that immunity from taxation has enabled the Government to pay a small Civil List confined to specific official aspects and thus keep the whole issue of financing the monarchy in a rather lower key than would otherwise be the case.”

Why was this disclosure such a big deal? Royal watchers had long suspected that the Queen’s special privileges might be granted for some ulterior motive, but here it was set out in black and white for the first time. The tax breaks were a backstairs way of funding the royal household and keeping its real cost under wraps.

A history of royal exemptions

The suspicion that the government was being less than clear with the public about what was really going on was confirmed by a related document. The December 1989 Review of the Civil List, chaired by the Treasury’s most senior official, Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Middleton, revealed that the true

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1,612 DOJ Alumni Warn Bill Barr Will Use Law Enforcement Powers to Undermine Free and Fair Elections

U.S. Attorney General William Barr could attempt to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, according to allegations made in an open letter from 1,612 former members of the Department of Justice.

Barr has claimed that this year’s election results could be tallied incorrectly because of the prevalence of mail-in ballots. In September, Barr said that the mail-in ballots could be highly susceptible to fraud. Barr has also said that foreign entities, such as the Russian government, could forge ballots and send them in which could cause election results to be unfairly unbalanced.

In the letter, the DOJ alumni cited a fear that Barr “intends to use the DOJ’s vast law enforcement powers to undermine our most fundamental democratic value: free and fair elections. He has signalled this intention in myriad ways, from making false statements about the security of mail-in voting from foreign hackers to falsely suggesting that mail-in ballots are subject to widespread fraud and coercion.”

Newsweek reached out to the DOJ for comment.

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Both Barr and Trump have condemned the practice of widespread mail-in voting. In a September interview with CNN, Barr said that the use of mail-in ballots was “reckless and dangerous.”

Trump has attempted to delineate between mail-in voting and absentee voting, a process Trump himself claims to use.

william barr
Former members of the U.S. Department of Justice are concerned that Attorney General William Barr may be attempting to undermine this year’s presidential elections.
Oliver Contreras/AFP/Getty

“I’m an absentee voter because I can’t be in Florida because I’m in Washington,” Trump said at a July press conference. “I’m at the White House, so I’ll be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works.”

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According to Trump, mail-in ballots are different because they are sent to people who did not request them. Trump cited California as an example where “tens of millions” of ballots are expected to be sent out.

All registered voters in California are expected to receive mail-in ballots because of the threat of community spread coronavirus at polling places. However, if an individual chooses to vote in person, they must take their mail-in ballot with them as verification that they did not vote twice.

Barr has also expressed concerns in a September interview with CNN that states could receive ballots that have been counterfeited “either by someone here or someone overseas.”

When asked by CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer if the DOJ had received any reports of such ballots, Barr said, “No. But most things can be counterfeited.”

In response to Trump’s social media posts about the dangers of mail-in voting, Twitter placed a fact-checking link on some of Trump’s tweets. Upon clicking the link, Twitter users are taken to a page with the headline, “Voting by mail is legal and safe, experts and data confirm.”

In a corporate blog post published in September, Twitter said it would either label or remove “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence

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