How to tax your Dragon

Tax is a subject that can rouse the passions of many, but the strange tale of
dueling Dragons shows just how vicious the topic can become.

It’s a story of two high-flying celebrity entrepreneurs, James Caan and
Duncan Bannatyne, formerly close friends and co-stars on Dragons’ Den.

Things kicked off after Caan opened up a chain of health clubs to rival the
fitness empire that Bannatyne had already established. Bannatyne complained that
Caan’s non-dom tax status gave him an “unfair” advantage in an article in the
Telegraph (now mysteriously removed from its website).

Out came the claws.

Caan responded by saying he did not apologise for his country of origin,
Pakistan. Bannatyne then accused Caan of “playing the race card”.

Follow up comments from Caan about refusing to work alongside people with
criminal records were interpreted as a dig at Bannatyne’s Navy court marshal and
dishonourable discharge.

Bannatyne responded with allegations of ‘hypocrisy’ as Caan was involved with
The Princes Trust and The Big Issue, both of which work with former criminals.

he outcome of all this is that the two are barely speaking to each other and
handshakes were refused at the start of filming for the new series.

While this spat may seem better suited to the pages of Heat than Accountancy
Age, it does highlight how perceived disparities in the tax system can really
get the dander up.

We’ve seen a surge by the political parties in the use of tax to tug at the
heartstrings of the electorate during the run-up to the general election.

Witness the conversion of the planned 1% NI rise into a “jobs tax” by David
Cameron or Nick Clegg’s proposed tax on “greedy bankers”.

The non-dom issue even plays its part, with Gordon Brown using Lord
Ashcroft’s residential status as a stick to batter the Tories with any chance he

Whether inflammatory rhetoric on tax works for the political parties in
pulling in voters is doubtful, given the general apathy towards politicians
after the expenses scandal, but I guarantee the non-dom issue will do wonders
for the ratings of the next series of Dragon’s Den.

Paul Grant is features editor of Accountancy Age

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