Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Article excerpt

AS a boy I lived for the day when a man might knock on our front door at EXACTLY the right time of day or night and say: "Taxi for Banks."

It was, after all, my dad's solemn, frequent prediction: "Nothing is as certain as death or taxis..." Confusing for a youngster. The inevitability of death I could just about accept, with a shudder. But taxis? If you've ever swayed unsteadily in a 40-strong queue on a slow-moving cab rank with a bladder full of beer and a Chronicle full of cold chips you'll know there's absolutely no certainty regarding taxis.

OK, so I did eventually realise that it was a communications problem between me and the old man that had caused the conflation of cabs (incoming) and cash (outgoing). But it is remarkable how the onset of age brings both death and taxes into almost daily consideration.

Take taxes: disturbingly, the vicar of eight rural churches in West Sussex shares with the clerk of Ford Parish Council up here in Godzone a cat-and-mouse con-flict with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over the taxman's determination to collect piddling amounts at enormous inconvenience to honest men.

According to the Rev Dr John Strain the Revenue is insisting that his part-time church organists, who play for an hour each month for their congregations' pleasure plus a tiny weekly stipend, be treated as church employees with all of the PAYE procedures that must be constructed around their minuscule 'earnings'.

This is far from rare: our parish clerk who (from memory) earns around PS500 per year for his attendance at monthly meetings plus much home preparation and letter writing is similarly pursued by HMRC instead of being allowed to declare his piteous stipend as self-employed earnings (as the organists would prefer).

There is a bigger point than annoyance and inconvenience here: administrative costs to the various wee parishes of West Sussex and Ford are out of all proportion to the amounts involved. The refusal of organists and parish clerks to kowtow to such mindless bureaucracy will damage the communities as well as deny HMRC the revenue it would otherwise receive. …

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