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Last updateTue, 24 Feb 2015 5pm

Old Trafford Consulting Ltd

Old Trafford Consulting Ltd

Geoffrey Shindler questions whether the hurricane of new regulations will prevent financial crime

We cannot go on like this. Not only have we reached the end of our emotional tether, but we have reached the end of our physical and mental capacity to deal with the ever-increasing demands thrust upon us by the regulators of this world who have now clearly taken over it.

Geoffrey Shindler reminds practitioners of the beauty of well-crafted writing

It is a great shame that we never were able to hear the great advocates in their prime; not even via a phonographic wax cylinder. How convincing was Marshall Hall and the other advocates of that era: was he able to sway a jury to deliver a verdict favourable to his clients in the face of all the evidence? Now, from my infrequent visits to court, I hear excellent presentations of the case in question, both for and against, but not what I would call stirring advocacy. There is probably no need for it. To use the cliché, ‘The facts speak for themselves.’ All that is needed is to set them out in a logical and coherent manner.

In a time of uncertainty Geoffrey Shindler urges private client practitioners to get back to basics

We may, or we may not, in Chinese terms, live in interesting times. We certainly live in strange times. Normally we can have some idea of what the short-term future holds for us. We can always be certain that the England football team will be humiliated in the next major European or World Championship, even assuming that they reach the qualifying stages. The might of Iceland lies in the way and in the not too distant past so did that of the United States of America. Indeed, only in 1966 did we triumph over all of the odds. We can be certain that our cricket team will both delight and infuriate us in equal measure; we will beat the Australians and lose to Bangladesh on a tour there. And there is one further absolute certainty which is that either Oxford or Cambridge will win the Boat Race.

Geoffrey Shindler reflects on changing practices and definitions in tax law

It is now that time of the year. We can put away our cares and troubles and depart for, at least in our own view, a well-earned break.

Geoffrey Shindler finds the current public funding predicament all too familiar

Two articles caught my eye in a recent edition of a Saturday pink newspaper – not being the Manchester Football Pink (of blessed memory). Both had similar underlying stories to tell. Namely that people never learn, and that life repeats itself – as tragedy (first time) and farce (second time) as Karl Marx said. I think that we are reaching the farce level.

Geoffrey Shindler considers recent criticisms and concerns affecting the judiciary

When discussing his job prospects the immortal Peter Cook said ‘I didn’t have the Latin for the judgin’’. In fact judges and their job prospects have been very much in the minds of various people recently, not least the, though soon to be ex, Lord Chief Justice and also the Secretary of State for Justice together with the Lord Chancellor. The latter two are in fact the same person, which only goes to show that WS Gilbert got it right 130 years ago when writing The Mikado because Ko-Ko was the Lord High Executioner leaving Pooh-Bah as Lord High Everything Else.

Despite the lack of news for private client practitioners in the Budget, Geoffrey Shindler advises caution

Last month we had a Budget that did not bite at a headline level, but we do have to watch the small print very carefully.

Geoffrey Shindler considers what the year ahead holds for private client practitioners

In the good old days by this time of the year we were all in a frenzy about what would be unveiled in the Budget. Now for two reasons that frenzy does not come about in February. First, because we are now told that the main Budget for the year is going to be in the autumn and second because so much of what we can expect the Chancellor to deliver has been released either by consultation documents or as the result of consultation documents. There is very little room for surprises.

Geoffrey Shindler argues that there is still room for personal service in a commoditised world

The New Year is as good a time as any other to think about change. Janus, the Roman god, (January is named after him, according to some) looks two ways, both backwards and forwards. Let us leave 2016 behind and focus on what lies ahead.

The current political language of stark opposites is nothing new to the practitioner. Geoffrey Shindler explains

Let us begin by considering two four letter English words, much used in public and no doubt in private conversations and publications. The two words in question are ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Currently these two words come up against each other because of the unpredicted result of a referendum held earlier this year, which was neither needed nor wanted by the country at large and held only because the then Prime Minister was desperately trying to keep his party together; and failed. This fate seems to befall Conservative Prime Ministers in their relationship with their party and with the European Union at regular intervals – see John Major.

Geoffrey Shindler muses on the pace of change

The French have a phrase for it, ‘plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose’. Not the case (how often are the French wrong!) in the case of pay and the legal profession. I qualified in 1969 and my salary was the princely sum of £1,500 a year. That itself was a massive percentage increase on my pay as a second year articled clerk, which was £416 a year. I have never had a pay rise that was so large in percentage terms. So what do I feel now when I read in the newspapers that newly qualified lawyers in some of the firms operating in the City of London are earning well over £100k per annum? Definitely not ‘la meme chose’.

A new consultation document from HMRC has important ramifications for the practitioner. Geoffrey Shindler reports

August used to be known as ‘the silly season’ where nothing much happened in the world of politics, the major summer season in Britain for the socialites having ended and they had all fled to Tuscany or the South of France. All we used to be left with were shock horror stories about the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster and spiders leaping out of packs of bananas and devouring lower middle class housewives whole, or the good news about how students are becoming increasingly cleverer because they get better A level and GCSE results (although as we all know this is just a matter of where you choose to draw the line on the pyramid between A star, A and the rest).

There is a difference between privacy and secrecy. Geoffrey Shindler considers common terms used by politicians and the press about the trust industry

It would be flying in the face of the obvious to suggest that at the moment the trust industry does not have problems. It has had problems before and overcome them, so there is no reason for panic, but there is very much a reason for deciding on a strategic approach to the problems that we now have. Those of a historical bent will remember that in the time of Henry VIII he was not only trying to find a wife who would bear him a son but he was also desperately short of money and decided that the sixteenth century trust industry had too many tax loopholes. Sound familiar?

Geoffrey Shindler delves into the psychology of will-making and its link with the seasons

Summer time brings mixed emotions for trusts and will practitioners. Looking out over the gloriously sunny and warm Manchester town centre, the images that I have are hardly those of Bleak House. So it made me wonder whether there is something inherent in the work that we do that makes it more suitable to winter time. There may not be any Bleak House-type smog anymore, but somehow wills and probate produce a feeling of black tidings, black clothes and black emotions. There is hardly anything elevating about drafting a will or a settlement, even if we no longer have to deal with the rules in Howe v Dartmouth [1802] and Allhusen v Whittell [1867]. It just seems more natural to be talking about wills and death in the winter time than it does in the summer.

Technical advice is no longer sufficient. Geoffrey Shindler outlines how the world of the trust and estate practitioner has changed over the past 50 years

Fifty years ago, that is June 1966, I was employed (if that is the right word and it probably is not) as some kind or porter/general dogsbody at a very posh hotel in Cambridge. Quite why I was employed in that capacity was at the time a mystery to me and is no less of a mystery now, but time has moved on and the harsh realities of life as a member of that section of the working class have receded somewhat. I think I was in Cambridge, post-examinations, waiting for the result of those examinations and trying somehow to delay my entry into the world of real work.

Geoffrey Shindler puts his mind to the neglected question of how Brexit would affect the trusts and estates world

Everybody else in the world seems to have a view about Brexit. Why should trust and estate practitioners not join the party? As Hamlet might have put it; to Brexit or not to Brexit, that is the question. Should those of us practising in our area of the trade have a view – not an official one – but is there one that comes to mind when you consider the work that we do? Are we better off in Europe, economically speaking rather than geographically, or is it a matter of indifference whether we are or we are not?

Geoffrey Shindler questions whether our current use of grammar and punctuation is evolution or degeneration

Do you care about grammar and punctuation? Should you care about grammar and punctuation? Or is this very old fashioned and in this free-wheeling world in which we live everybody makes up their own rules and everything is correct? In this philosophy nothing can be incorrect, because freedom of expression counts for everything.

The position of trustee is not for the faint-hearted. Geoffrey Shindler explains

The following quotation of Lord Hardwicke LC in Knight v Earl of Plymouth [1747] is well known and is no doubt inscribed on the heart of all professional trustees: ‘A trust is an office necessary in the concerns between man and man and… if faithfully discharged, attended with no small degree of trouble and anxiety’, so that ‘it is an act of great kindness in any one to accept it’.

There is nothing new under the sun, especially with taxation. Geoffrey Shindler takes a tour through the ages

No doubt 2016 will bring its fair share of crises to disturb our equanimity, ranging from the parochial to the international. It is perhaps an interesting way of looking at the year to come to examine crises, often the introduction of new taxation provisions, we had to face in the past and how we dealt with them or indeed whether we can remember them at all. After a crisis has been dealt with or faded away it very soon becomes not only part of history but a part of history that we cannot even remember. So let us have a look at some of the issues which kept us, and our clients, both busy and worried.

Geoffrey Shindler makes a plea for joined-up thinking between HMRC and the government

It is very easy to criticise HM Government and HMRC. It will be water off the back of both ducks but nevertheless the more problems are brought to their attention the more possibility there is of them being rectified or, at least, ameliorated.

Geoffrey Shindler considers what bearing the UK’s trust and estate law will have on the EU referendum

Remember you read it here first. A large number of trees in the Amazon rainforest are going to be cut down over the next few months so that everyone (and their auntie) can have their say about the referendum on whether the United Kingdom stays within the European Union. Geographically we are in Europe whether we like it or not, and despite the existence of the English Channel (note the adjective!) it is the European Union that is at the heart of the forthcoming debates.

Geoffrey Shindler reflects on the many dangers to note in our professional lives

We are surrounded by danger. There is no need to go to the Middle East or the depths of the Amazon rainforest or the bleakness of Siberia or the North Pole. Danger lurks on our desk and the laptop/computer that is in front of us. What do you regard as the most dangerous part of your professional life?

Illot v Mitson raises profound moral issues. Geoffrey Shindler explains

Law and morality. This is a subject to which we do not devote enough time. Those of us fortunate at university to be able to study something called ‘jurisprudence’ found the concept interesting but overtaken by a lot of other legal subjects which seemed to have more priority and relevance and were easier to understand. In our life in practice it is a matter of dealing with the next file rather than contemplating the greater scheme of things.

Geoffrey Shindler reflects on the apparent demotion of the courts in tax affairs

We are going through a period of time where substantive new law is relegated to second position. Top of the league are issues relating to how taxation practitioners, which includes HMRC as well as the private sector, should behave in relation to each other. And we are also going through an era where, it seems to me, that the courts are being relegated as second place to government created quangos when it comes to professional offences.

Election time provides Geoffrey Shindler a chance to reflect on two intertwined issues for practitioners: the digital age and the growth of HMRC’s powers

If there are two things that will mark out the current age for trust and estate practitioners, they are the development and growth of the internet and digital progress (more about that phrase later), and the dramatic increase of HMRC’s powers.

Geoffrey Shindler attempts to find the stance of key political parties on inheritance tax

If my infantile searching around the internet is anything to go by you are not going to find much assistance from any of the major parties, or the minor ones for that matter, in respect of their views on inheritance tax and what they might do in the event, likely, unlikely or otherwise, that they achieve office sometime in May.

Geoffrey Shindler contemplates the current state of trust law

In life, expect the unexpected. That is a trite piece of philosophy, but it is surprising how often it is true. Advisers on investment, particularly stocks, shares, bonds and insurance policies, tell us that what goes up may come down and that past performance is no guide to future performance. All of which makes you think that investment is something of a gamble and the roulette table has its attractions. With land it may be different because, other than in places like Holland, no more land is being made and indeed, if the siren voices about global warming are to be believed, there will shortly be less rather than more land as sea levels rise.

Geoffrey Shindler considers how much children should know about their parents’ wealth

WS Gilbert wrote that, ‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.’ Neither, at times, can the lot of a parent be much better. For all one’s best endeavours and well thought out plans the future always turns out differently to what one expected, and often not as good as one would have liked. But, ‘that’, as the sage remarked, ‘is life’. What we try to do as parents is teach children what to do and what not to do. The trouble is life moves on and runs away with you and what was important when your children were young is no longer regarded by them or the world in general as important when they have grown up. For instance, the old command, ‘come into the garden and help clear up the fallen leaves’. ‘Why? I did not drop them’ (copyright: Hunter Davies). ‘Clean your shoes they are filthy’. ‘I do not mind them being dirty and I am wearing them’. And, finally, all that hard work that went into teaching your children, in my case daughters, how to put a plug on an electrical flex. All now superfluous knowledge. No doubt all down to ‘’elf an’ safety’ but everything I see nowadays comes already plugged (if that is a word in the English language).

Geoffrey Shindler argues that it should be a legal requirement to make a will

We like to think that we live in a ‘free society’. I think what we mean by this is that we are not subject to totalitarian regimes where the rule of law has no meaning other than what the dictator wants it to mean on any one day. When we enter into profound discussions about the world in which we live the rule of law is one of the underlying and paramount principles behind our thinking. Just as there used to be arguments as to whether the ability to think and feel distinguished man from the animals, so the rule of law distinguishes civilised society from the opposite: anarchy, chaos and the whims of villainous, and usually corrupt, leaders. But of course in any form of society there has to be rules. At one point in time the basic rule was that your freedom ended at the end of my nose. In other words gratuitous violence by one person against another was not acceptable; a physical assault by one human being on another was, and still is, an unacceptable exercise of freedom and therefore there have to be sanctions either to prevent or to punish.

A glance at the news reveals a lack of joined-up thinking in HMRC and other government agencies, finds Geoffrey Shindler

Those of us who watch a lot of cricket, and that includes me, are prone to make the statement ‘It’s a funny game, cricket!’ at regular intervals when something untoward or unexpected occurs (a regular event). This thought went through my mind when reading a newspaper recently discussing, on different pages in articles written by different journalists, the activities of Her Majesty’s government and its offshoots.

Geoffrey Shindler is perplexed by divergent approaches in major judicial decisions

Very early in our careers we all learnt that, in the Middle Ages or, if you prefer the term medieval times, equity was invented because the King’s courts looked solely at the documents in front of them; all the arguments then were about land which was the only real source of wealth. Equity was invented so as to ameliorate the harshness of this approach; a difference was created between the law, which was very strict, and equity which had a more subjective approach to a problem. An early example of the difference between law and justice.

Geoffrey Shindler looks forward to a break from the cares of practice this holiday season

As far back as springtime we used to wish, in Robert Browning’s words, ‘Oh, to be in England/Now that April’s there…’. We have moved on. It is now, metaphorically if not actually, bucket and spade time. Time to forget the trials and tribulations of the contemporary world and embark upon all that serious and uplifting reading that is lying on the table next to our bed and which we have promised ourselves that we would embark upon as soon as office matters were concluded for the academic year.

Geoffrey Shindler finds the idea that HMRC is allowed access to bank accounts without a court order incompatible with our parliamentary democracy

Nobody likes paying taxes; nobody likes those who evade payment of their due tax liability. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum lies civilisation. ‘Taxes are what we pay for a civilised society’, Compania General de Tabacos v Collector [1927] (at 100 per Holmes J). Taxes have been raised by the state since the dawn of time. Ancient Egypt had a tax structure; no doubt some Egyptians avoided the taxes levied, some of them illegally and so became evaders.