Saturday, 23 April 2016

using MiFi whilst waiting for broadband

The distant building project has also created a few technical challenges.

The people from Openreach are just sorting out the manhole covers and wires so providing an interim internet connection has required ingenuity.

I'm using a MiFi solution. This uses a Huawei black box, which takes a regular 4G SIMM card, finds a signal and then works as a hotspot. Easy-peasy to set up - the hardest part was finding out how to fit the SIMM card (RTFM).

It also has an ethernet connection, so I was able to hook it up to a Mac Time Capsule and then broadcast a nice strong secure Wifi signal as well as providing an across-the-wire ethernet link to the internet.

It's a bit pricey to use at around £10 per Gigabyte, but will do nicely until the regular broadband arrives.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

scratching a living

I've received an email from Companies House about new rules for People with Significant Control (PSC).

It says I'll need to create a new confirmation statement and ensure that the company register and SIC codes for my company are up-to-date.

It adds that from 30 June, I won't need to complete an annual return (which was free to complete) but will instead need to file at least once a year a new confirmation statement - for which I will now have to pay a fee.

It's all to do with the 275 page Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act, which is designed to help UK business compete, get finance to create jobs, grow, innovate and export.

I found the relevant PSC 'Company Transparency' information in section 80, on page 60 of the report, just after a section about Destination Information related to education.

I'm not convinced that the document is the best example of crystal clear writing and when I ran 'drivel defence' against the 'Transparency' section it gave an average sentence length of 37 words. The longest sentence in the section was 137 words. Of 65 sentences, 47 were longer than 20 words.

But then I notice that the introduction to the Act was only one sentence. 903 characters or 133 words. Perhaps the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled need to tighten up on their writing style? I believe they are about to stop using parchment.

(Average sentence length of this post = 20.25 words)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

a frontier click into the past

P4200207-Edit.jpgThe car is clean again after its time spent on a building site. There was a team of about five people cleaning it and even in true pit-stop style it still took them about five minutes to get it nice and sparkly.
There was a frontier land feeling to the time on-site. I was staying at the very end of the current addressable world and even the delivery drivers needed piloting in for the last part of the journey.

And a fascinating thing is that this is one of those parts where in Google there's a proper time machine effect.

The main roads get updated more recently than the side roads, so it is still possible to jump from 'Now' (well, April 2015) across a one-click boundary into 'Then' (2009) and see the striking difference in the terrain.

There's plenty of examples of this sprinkled around Google Maps. Just find a newish building site and then look around and there will almost certainly be some of the older land behind.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

not the aga questions all over again?

Fair play that Cameron has released his income and expenses across the last few years, although I suppose people will also delve into the detail. I noticed that the interest on his second home in Witney which used to be paid for by the taxpayer seems to not feature.

I recollect that the monthly amount claimed for the interest for this back in the mid 2000s was about £1,776, (around £20k per annum) according to the claims forms. He also had the Aga chimney repaired, the oil for the stove and even the wisteria maintenance paid for by the taxpayers - all of which were his entitlement.

Perhaps the rental income on his spare homes now covers this? After all Dave's (50%?) share of the annual net rental income is now £46,000 per annum.

I wonder if he will ask his Cabinet to make similar declarations? He did say he would back in 2012.

Friday, 8 April 2016

the wiggly tail of Blairmore Holdings

Ages ago I downloaded the prospectus for Blairmore Holdings. I stashed a part written post about it in my notes. Patience has its rewards because it is now in the mainstream news.

There are a couple of points that don't stack up with the chorus of secondary politicians defending their leader right now in the saga about who held what.

Firstly, the reported £30,000 holding cashed in? A minimum holding stipulated with the fund is USD100,000. This would imply that the total holding by a single entity would need to be at least USD100,000. Either this condition was waived, or there was a joint holding, which would then be closer to $100,000 - split 2 ways? Could it be that Sam and Dave each cashed in £30k? Not what Dave implied. Someone should really ask...

Then the statements about this being a regular trust mechanism and not one particularly designed to avoid UK tax. That's quietly contradicted in the original prospectus, which made s specific point of saying it is designed to avoid UK taxation.

As a clue, the banking arrangements were via Nassau, Bahamas. Payment into the fund was via Société Généralé in New York.

Intriguingly, the investment managers are Smith and Williamson, 25 Moorgate, London. That's really the working part of the Fund, having to decide what it invests in. One could say that the financial factory was based in London. I wonder if any of the beneficial holders of the trust had links with that firm (wink)?

Then there was an English legal firm, Simmonds and Simmonds from Ropemaker Street EC1, as well as the Mossack Fonseca in Panama. Add some Deloitte and Touche auditors from Nassau, a few more advisors and banks and it makes a complete structure.

But that was then.

The trust has since relocated to Ireland, which also claims that funds are not subject to any taxes on their income (profits) or gains arising on their underlying investments. Furthermore, with Irish regulations, the treatment of foreign investments can reduce or eliminate withholding taxes under Ireland’s network of tax treaties.

I notice that the current Blairmore fund is currently rated at around USD30 million. Some of its top ten holdings are also well-known tax optimisers. Top holding is Google (Alphabet), 2nd is Walt Disney (tax via Luxembourg) and 8th holding is Amazon.

There's probably another story in that?

And here's those Prospectus extracts (SEOs rev your engines)...

Blairmore Holdings

Minimum Investment
The Directors are entitled (in their sole and absolute discretion) to determine the minimum initial investment amount and the minimum amount for subsequent subscriptions from time to time. As at the date of this Prospectus, the minimum initial investment per subscriber is US$100,000. Shareholders must maintain this minimum level of subscription in the Fund...

Taxation, United Kingdom

(a) The Fund
The Directors intend that the affairs of the Fund should be managed and conducted so that it does not become resident in the United Kingdom for United Kingdom taxation purposes.

Accordingly, and provided that the Fund is not trading in the United Kingdom through a fixed place of business or agent situated in the United Kingdom that constitutes a “permanent establishment” for United Kingdom taxation purposes and that all their trading transactions in the United Kingdom are carried out through a broker or investment manager acting as an agent of independent status in the ordinary course of business, the Fund will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits... "

Thursday, 7 April 2016

produkt review

Sometimes it is the simplest things.

Take this product called Produkt, from that well known purveyor of Billy bookcase.

Plonk it into warm milk and switch it on to make frothy milk for latte coffee.

The bulky mains powered fancy machine I'd used previously took 2 minutes, required a teflon interior coating and a complete overhaul after every use. This takes about 10 seconds and then a quick dunk in some water.

And all for £1.

Oh yes. Even if the instructions were in Norwegian.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

my iPhone secret experiment

I decided to carry out a secret experiment when the recent iPhone SE was announced.

I decided to take a leaf from all of these tax-free people and see how long it would take to use Apple shares to create a tax free gain sufficient to buy a new Apple iPhone 'for free'.

So I set up a watchlist on a W8-Ben compliant share trading platform. I added an amount of money equivalent to the maximum level of the current UK ISA, which for 2015/16 is GBP 15,240. In other words I put the virtual money into a virtual tax-free wrapper.

Then I set the watchlist to buy Apple shares at the announcement prevailing USD106.51 rate.

The I let it run until Apple's share price got over USD109.27, which would be the equivalent of a 2.59% gain, or expressed in GBP, a gain of £395 - i.e. the price of the phone.

The number was broken today and ran on to around USD109.93, briefly going over USD110. That shift moved the gain to be sufficient to buy the larger 64Gb iPhone.

Now, I did this as an experiment only, and I can say that it took 8 days to see the gain, based on what I perceived as Apple's comparatively low share price before the recent announcements.

Just an experiment and just for fun, of course.

Monday, 4 April 2016

the allure of the Panama hat

I once had a proper Sheplers stetson hat, acquired when I was in Texas, but it was 'lost' at some point after I returned to Blighty. I've had a secret hankering to replace it alongside maybe adding a proper panama hat to the collection.

Rather a round-about way to get to that Cameron Blairmore Holdings thing. I last wrote about it in February 2015. The story just resurfacing has been around for years this time unfolding as part of the bigger Panama offshoring wheeze. (See, unfolding - a panama hat reference!)

Of course, the fund was entirely legally framed as Panama based, and even included something in its Memorandum about not ever wanting to be considered as under UK jurisdiction. So that's all right then.

Another UK person in the Panama list is my one-time MP, who is no stranger to investigations. These include windfalls from Dolphin Square property, controversial support for Asil Nadir during Nadir's £29m fraud conviction and even a curious example when the MP used a rented property in Winchester as his residential address for an election campaign. It must have all come good though, because when he retired from Parliament he stood as the Police Commissioner for Hampshire.

By comparison, the Osborne family's painting and decorating business Osborne and Little shows its corporation tax avoidance as a very straightforward matter.

It saved the tax because of 'timing differences' in cashflow, which has resulted from £34m turnover, £722,000 profit and -er- £0 corporation tax. Actually, there's a rebate from 2010 of £12k. All entirely within the law, of course. No wonder the main director (George's dad, Sir Peter) gets a salary of £680k per year and the company has paid no CT on its £200 million turnover across the last seven years.

But back to the more complicated world of Mossack Fonseca. The data exposure is interesting because of its scale. It looks as if an entire server disk has been intercepted and then Nuix used to create machine readable formats and indices for all of the documents.

Then it becomes easy to type in search terms like 'Putin', 'Cameron', 'Sergei Roldugin', 'Bank Rossiya', 'Dietrich, Baumgartner & Partner', 'FIFA ethics lawyer' ...

We shall see.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

what Katy might do?

One of those days when the weather changes in minutes.

It's like we have already moved into April a few days early.

The cherry blossom is back on the tree, but I'm wondering whether Katy is about to change all that.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

time for an iTunes reshuffle

Away for part of Easter and an ideal time to run some of those long duration batch jobs to tidy some of the rashbre file system. Aside from the ongoing routine backup, the main chore at the moment is cleaning up iTunes, which in my case contains both music and video.

I've done that thing where you select File/Library/Consolidate and iTunes speedily rebuilt its directories into a much tidier form. I think the prior mess was a consequence of various generations of iTunes having different spaghetti ideas about how to organise.

The tidy-up is one of those simple push-a-button things. However, it shouldn't be undertaken lightly because it does completely re-organise the iTunes structure.

Afterwards, I wanted to ensure iCloud hadn't hi-jacked various files. That's the part that takes the longest, because there were still around 1,000 files that were in a state of cloud confusion.

I've since clicked the little iTunes iCloud button to sort it all out, but it will take a day or so to process, even on quite a fast internet connection. The main reason I'm doing this is to get the best quality legitimate versions of all of the music and videos, based upon the index entries in my iTunes directory.

Then I must backup the newly recrafted iTunes directories, using Chronosync.

I've decided to move the prior backups out of the way and to create new fresh clean ones, in effect streamlining the whole file structure. I noticed the Master iTunes directory has crept up to just over 2TB of disk. That'll be the digital video content I suppose.

Anyway, by the time I get back, it should all have rearranged itself nicely.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

wet motorway jams and the heavyside and lightside sectoral balance

A change of plan today, on the basis that the roads could be rather overloaded. It looks as if I was right to follow the advice to not travel.

That was even before the rain started.

But yippee, it's easter, so we can have a few days break.

Just like all the traders selling shares defensively against unexpected news during their time off.

Red = Down and Blue = Up. That redness of the FTSE100 looks fairly down to me?

Except for blue spots on betting shops this sporty weekend and, curiously enough, for the makers of motorway concrete.

I think I can see why there's enduring strength in motorway construction.

so the new iPhone looks like the old excellent industrially designed iPhone?

The announcements about the newest iPhone are more muted because it is, after all, a device that looks like one of their previous generation designs.

For me this is great news.

My existing phone still does great service, although I often use a battery pack to keep it working for a full day. I've had occasions when the phone has been at 45% by 10:00 in the morning, when I'm doing busy things around London. That's more about me than the phone though.

The svelte 5s design is still, for me, a winner and I'm pleased to see that Apple have figured a way to cram just about all of the electronics of the 6s series into the 5 (SE) shell. For once, if I update, then I won't need to change my car accessory holder again.

I'm probably not exactly the target market for the SE (I assume that's the 7), but the SE could well be a useful way to get better battery life, near-field Pay and improved camera capabilities for what amounts to about 55% the price of my original device - And still be able to use the old accessories with it.

As Apple sets its sights on China and India, these smaller form factor and less expensive units become their gateway devices.

I assume they will prefer to ship as many units as possible with the Pay facility, which they can also link to their wider plans in these markets.

The share price hasn't moved much yet, but I'll guess there will be action as the implications of these relatively modest sounding announcements become apparent.