Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Family Money: Are you evading UK tax?

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Some British expatriates think they’re being smart by “neglecting” to inform the UK Inland Revenue Department that they’ve left the UK. They reason that they can continue to receive their State Pension with indexed increases every year, and don’t have to bother making changes to their mortgage or rental arrangements.

At the same time, they imagine that they can move substantial amounts of onshore capital into tax-free offshore investments, and draw down an income from those investments in the country where they are actually resident, without incurring any liability in UK. They want - and expect to achieve - the best of both worlds.

Well, sooner or later their plans will come unstuck - even if only when they die and their heirs try to unravel the estate through probate and the UK taxman appears over the horizon wanting his share. A worse scenario is running the risk of prosecution for deliberately defrauding the IRD. Avoiding tax is one thing; evading it is quite another.

In fact, the very first step you should take towards becoming an expat should be to the UK’s Inland Revenue to sort out your tax liabilities. The IRD should be informed in advance of your departure by completing form P85 to declare that you are going. (A range of guidance leaflets and forms may be downloaded from the IRD website,www. inlandr evenue.gov.uk).

To avoid tax on your foreign earnings and income, you must be non-resident in the UK for a period of one complete UK tax year (6th April to 5th April), as discussed in the IRD’s guidance leaflet IR20. Otherwise, if you are away for less than a full tax year you will remain liable to UK tax.

You also have to be careful how long you stay in UK during subsequent visits. Some barroom tax experts quote the 180-day rule whereby you’re permitted to return to UK for not more than 180 days in each tax year without attracting income tax liability. But there’s also a less well-known rule whereby temporary visits to UK must not exceed 90 days per annum aggregated over four years.

Also, the local tax authorities in the new host country must be informed of your imminent arrival - although in practice in Thailand, this will only apply if you take up legal employment here and apply for a work permit.

Those who think they’re smarter than the local immigration and tax man by doing a visa run every 90 days may eventually come unstuck also, despite the fact that expats have been getting away with this practice for years, largely because the bureaucracy was not up to keeping tabs on everyone.

This is changing with the gradual introduction of inter-departmental computerisation, and there are indications that the government is going to clamp down on expatriate tax evaders, despite protesting letters to the newspapers that because expats are spending all their money in Thailand, they should be welcomed instead of being harassed. (How these same correspondents would feel about Asian and African immigrants to UK getting around immigration rules and evading the taxman is never mentioned, of course.)

Existing onshore investments

Expats who leave the UK with pre-existing individual savings accounts (ISAs) are allowed to continue to hold these during their time living and working overseas, but are not allowed to make further investments into them while non-resident.

Similar exclusions apply to onshore pension contributions. This is the most widely misunderstood and abused area: the expat thinks that if he doesn’t tell the pension provider that he’s now resident offshore, he can continue to make contributions and eventually draw down the pension to his onshore (or even offshore!) bank account. If the onshore provider or the IRD find out that he is not actually resident in the UK, he’ll be in a spot of trouble, for technically committing tax fraud. Pleading ignorance is no excuse. The pension is frozen and all contributions made during the time he was overseas must be returned.

Given that the pension must be frozen until the plan’s maturity date or the contributor’s return to UK residency, it is essential that expats seek professional advice to plan ways in which to make up for any retirement income shortfall.

Some ‘clever’ expats imagine that they can transfer the frozen pension offshore to gain tax advantages. In practice, IRD approval has to be granted to move a tax-efficient onshore pension offshore - and then only to a pension provider approved by the IRD, which means one offering a plan comparable to the onshore one. And the providers generally thought of as being offshore - insurance companies in the Isle of Man or Guernsey for instance - do not offer “approved” pension schemes.

Onshore corporate pensions can be transferred to onshore personal pension schemes, over which you may have greater control, and access to 20% of the ‘pot’ upon reaching the age of 50 - but it is generally not worth attempting to transfer a ‘frozen’ onshore personal pension scheme offshore. The hassle typically outweighs the small advantage. Better to wait for the plan to reach maturity and take the benefits then.

However, UK expats should consider continuing Class III contributions to the State Pension whilst resident abroad to ensure full benefit upon reaching retirement age - but should also bear in mind that overseas State Pension entitlements do not increase on an indexed basis, so this potential shortfall has to be considered in their financial planning also.


Personal Directions: Our most valuable asset? Our brain

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Incorp Trining Associates

So much of our time these days is directed towards staying fit – exercising – joining the local gym and the local team in just about whatever sport you want. There are numerous ways to get trim and lose weight to stay healthy … and to finally fit into those rather tight jeans you bought five years ago! Everywhere you go people are promoting healthy activities, healthy foods and drinks, healthy pastimes, a healthy environment and so on. Just in the area near my house huge slabs of concrete were recently poured and I thought, what are they building now? To my surprise a few weeks later, these concrete areas have become outdoor exercise parks where the locals gather to do aerobics together, or Tai Chi or other forms of exercise. Driving past one morning I thought – it’s refreshing to see people getting involved like this!

The one thing, however, that sticks out like a sore thumb when we look at all this physical activity going on (of which I am 100 percent in favour) is that we always jump to exercise our body much more quickly than we jump to exercise our brain. The poor old brain doesn’t seem to get a look in at all. We think that it can take care of itself and nourish itself without any outside assistance. After all, it’s a brain and it sits in our head. That’s where it is and it can look after itself. That’s where our knowledge is – and our knowledge of course comes automatically – it’s like turning on a tap to get running water.

So many of us don’t realize that just as we have to exercise our bodies to improve health and fitness and overall physical ability, so too do we need to exercise our brains or our minds in order to improve our thought processes, our mental and intellectual capabilities. Indeed physical activity plays a role, and an important one at that, in contributing to a good state of well-being and mental health. But we need to go one step further and exercise our mental capabilities in order that we can improve upon the one most valuable asset we all possess but under utilize – our brain!

When was the last time you did a cryptic crossword or challenged yourself with a difficult puzzle to solve? How much time of your day do you spend as the receiver of information as opposed to the sender or initiator? How often do you read a thought provoking book or write down your ideas on a subject that interests you?

If you sit and think about these questions, you’ll no doubt realize that for most of the time we behave passively. At night we will watch a movie or whatever we can find on the TV. We will read the paper – or skim through the paper. We want others to provide the stimulation because at the end of the day we’re tired. At work most of us will be repeating the previous day’s routine.

The majority of people do not have an original thought in their day because of the way their life is and therefore there is no value added to their intellectual or mental capability. Imagine if we didn’t have television for a day or a week! People would riot in the streets. But it’s a remarkable thing how much has been taken from us by television. There are pluses and minuses here, but overall we have really suffered intellectually as a result of television.

I remember, as some of you also can, when growing up there was no TV. And because of this we found ways of entertaining ourselves as kids through inventing games with our friends for example, or through reading and making things with our hands. The world was a different place then and we really had to use our head to get ahead.

The less we have to think, the less we will think. We will forget how to tap the tremendous resources that exist in our brains. The longing for learning will no longer be and we will live in a world of non-thinkers. What a dessert, what a wasteland with little hope for survival!

A colleague of mine is very passionate about getting the message across to people and young people, in particular, to use their “brain power” to get ahead in this world. Instead of sitting and waiting for others to provide them with the means to a successful and meaningful existence, they should be honing their mental capabilities and working it out for themselves. They have to be self-starters, proactive, planners, ideas-people, thinking original thoughts and then finding ways to proceed – not copiers of others, but self-made individuals.

The means to do this is at our fingertips and it takes application and the desire to learn. It takes the desire to push aside, if you can, all the clutter of what is fed into our lives every day. A monumental task to say the least, but a necessary one and one filled with a certain amount of urgency. The last time I sat in a room filled with seventy students who were in their third year at university I thought to myself, where are the thinkers? Where are the ones with original thoughts?

We all carry around with us one of the most valuable assets of our lives – our brain. The full power and force of the brain is still not understood regardless of the extensive research and study over the many decades. It is that intricate and that complex. So shouldn’t we be paying a little more attention to it? We only have one so instead of thinking of fitness only in terms of our bodies, let’s think fitness in terms of our mental and intellectual capacity. Be proactive as opposed to reactive and take on tasks that challenge the mind – and exercise it - rather than put it to sleep!

For more information I can be contacted at cmedodd @chmai.loxinfo.co.th and until next time, have a great, proactive week!


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Eat and grow thin

Here we are, almost at the end of the first month of the New Year, 2003 and already many of you are having problems with sticking to your new year’s resolutions, aren’t you? For most, it was a case of losing some extra kilo’s that were probably stacked on over the Xmas-New Year break, and to make it a little easier for you, here are some of the no-no’s and what you can substitute for them in your diet. You do realise that your weight is dependent upon what passes over your gums, and nothing to do with what you breathe or bath in, don’t you!

Let’s look at fatty foods first, and the first shock and disappointment for the health conscious salad freaks is that ordinary mayonnaise is very high in fat. There is nothing to be gained by eating rabbit food if you douse it with mayo, oily dressings, cream sauces or sour cream. Now don’t give up on the lettuce - you can use low fat mayonnaise, vinegar and lemon juice instead.

You probably do know that cheese should not be on your menu, but you can have reasonable (small) quantities of ricotta and cottage cheese and low fat cream cheese. But be honest with yourself. OK?

So you want to eat meat? That can be done, but you will have to avoid the fat on the outside of meat and duck and chicken skin. You must also give sausages, bacon and salami a bit of a wide berth too, but you can have lean cuts of meat such as ham, beef and turkey and chicken breast. It is also best to trim the fat off the meat before cooking.

I often advocate an Asian diet for people who are watching their weight, but that does not include such Asian favourites as fried Dim Sum items, spring rolls (except Vietnamese ones) or prawn crackers. Steamed Asian Dim Sum items are fine.

Others in the no-no category are deep fried or battered foods, pies and pasties, crisps and hot chips (french-fries). These should be replaced by foods that are cooked without fat or with a minimal amount of poly or mono-unsaturated vegetable oil, so look at substituting grilled fish and meats, rotisserie chicken (but take the skin off) and dry-fry meats. You can have oven baked chips, if you must have chips with your steak.

In cooking and spreads you should try and get away from large amounts of margarine, butter, oil, cream, peanut butter, dripping and lard for all the UK folk, and coconut cream (so that rules out the southern Thai curries). The recommendation is to limit oil or margarine to one tablespoon a day, and it should also be poly or mono-unsaturated.

Fortunately, fruit and vegetables, particularly raw or steamed, or even roasted using an oil spray only, are fine to include in your daily diet. But remember that too much of too sweet fruits is not all that good for you either! It really is the ‘all things in moderation’ thing again.

By the way, all these dietary restrictions are also good for anyone who is trying to lower their cholesterol levels, or even triglycerides (the other blood fat). Of course, if you do not know what your levels are, and you are over 40 years of age, come and get your levels done. Today!


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

I know you like chocolates, but last year we took some chocolate candy and some of those strange jellied candies in little cups (and some real food) out to the orphanage. None of the children wanted the chocolates and all quickly devoured the jellied candy. Do Thais - especially the ladies - not have taste for chocolate? I thought all women loved chocolates. And if they do, where is a good place to buy quality boxed chocolates?

A stranger in a strange place

Dear Stranger,

How could you possibly be a stranger here? Thailand is the most welcoming country in the world, just remember to bring your wallet, Petal (and champagne and chocolates for Ms. Hillary). Actually, whether Thais like chocolate depends upon where they come from. The Esarn peoples tend not to like sugary sweet things and chocolate is amongst that. By comparison, the southern Thais have a much sweeter tooth. Hillary? Well now, where do you get nice chocolates? It’s easy, you just pop down to the big supermarkets like a good boy and you will find quality boxed chocolates there. Wrap them securely, with a label addressed to Hillary, c/o this newspaper and I will get them. Thank you in advance, and also a big thank you for remembering the children less fortunate than ourselves.

Dear Hillary,

This year I went on holidays for a few days in Jomtien, instead of Chiang Mai. The beach road has certainly changed since I was there last, but the vendors were just the same, pestering us with fairy floss, wooden planes, sunglasses, hammocks, som tum, tod mun pla and ice creams. But there was something different there too, as we noticed that the police were coming along the beach and the vendors would go scurrying off like sandcrabs and disappear. However, about ten minutes after the police swoop, the vendors were all back again. Where do they go to Hillary, when the police come? They just disappeared like magic! Is it illegal for them to be on the beach?

Sandgroper

Dear Sandgroper,

Beach vendors are a curse and spoil my little forays to the land of deck chairs and banana boats. Hillary would imagine that they should have some sort of a permit, just the same as the beach concessionaires have - which costs money, by the way. The vendors all rush across the road and up the side sois to elude the police. I commend the police for helping clear the beaches, but I am just a little worried that I will next be woken up by a policeman asking if I would like to buy some peace and quiet. But that would never happen, would it! Not in Thailand, now that complete transparency is here.

Dear Hillary,

I read much about the problems people seem to have with the songtaews and even though I only come here once a year I felt moved to write to you, following my experience with one the other day. Wishing to only go a short way to the market and then return, I hailed a bus and explained what I wanted. A fare was agreed upon and the trip was carried out successfully, with him waiting for me at the market. I was a little longer than I expected, but he took it all with good graces. When I returned home I gave him more than the agreed fare, because of the extra waiting time, but he refused to take the extra! Unfortunately I did not get his number, but I just wanted to let others know not to judge them all by one.

Nancy

Dear Nancy,

I am delighted to hear this, as undoubtedly the drivers do get painted in a bad light, but I must also add that some of their vehicles look as if they have been painted in a bad light too! For a tourist venue, the drabness of our public transport, as frequent as the songtaews may be, is appalling. Hillary would like to see the city fathers suggesting some bright florals, rather than the dull rusting monochromes we have right now. Thank you Nancy for taking the time to tell us of this ambassador for our city.

Dear Hillary,

I just can’t believe that the letters you get are real. Nobody is that silly, or are they? Every week you publish all these letters from people with problems. I don’t believe the number of people or the number of problems. Could you confirm or deny this? By the way you will be helping me win a bet.

Anders

Dear Anders,

First of all, your point about “silly” letters - you wrote in! Is your letter “silly” too? You should not be too surprised that this column publishes letters from people with problems, as that is what ‘Agony Aunts’ are all about, Petal - solving problems for people with problems of the heart. Secondly, could I confirm or deny what? That people have problems? That people write in? Anders, my mailbox is full every week. Finally, and most importantly, betting is not legal in this country, so I cannot make myself party to such illegal goings-on. Please report to your closest police station and turn yourself in, that’s the lad!


Camera Class: Inspiration and Larry Dale Gordon

by Snapshot

Have you a favourite photographer? No? Well, you should! Everyone should have a photographer whose work stimulates you to greater heights. For me, I have many whose work I enjoy - Norman Parkinson, Helmut Newton and Jeff Dunas all rate high, but one photographer who inspires me not only with his images, but also with his words, is Larry Dale Gordon.

Now when I say that your favourite photographer’s work should inspire you, that does not mean that you should rush out and slavishly copy their work. Don’t laugh, I have seen it done so many times in camera club level photographers who have been most upset when I mark them down for copying, rather than being creative.

When I say “inspire” I mean that you look at the work and say to yourself, “How did he/she do that?” You should look at the end result and work out how you can use that technique to produce your own shot. Half the fun in photography is working out “how to” with the other half being the enjoyment of looking at the final image.

So why does Larry Dale Gordon inspire me? There are many reasons. First off, he is a self trained photographer, who believes that the way to learn is to do it. Let me quote you from one of his books, “I learned photography through experience; by putting film through the camera, peering through the lenses, trial and error, and pondering every facet of light. It’s the only way. If you think there is another way, or a faster way, write a book telling how and you will make considerably more money than by being a photographer.” These are very wise words. Cut them out and stick them on your bathroom mirror and read them every day! In fact, a renowned Thai photographer, Tom Chuawiwat, used to tell me that professional photography was the only job where the client paid you to learn!

I’ve tried to see just what it is about Larry Dale Gordon’s pictures that appeal so much to me and I’ve come up with two basic concepts. Simplicity and Colour.

Look at the photograph I have used to illustrate this week’s article. A classic. The couple on the pontoon, looking at each other, silhouetted against the water in the background. Unfortunately, this newspaper is a black and white medium, so just imagine, if you will, what that shot looks like with the water a golden orange with the black shadows and silhouette. It is a simple, uncluttered shot with only one colour in it. But that one shot Larry Dale Gordon has sold many times over through his stock agency. Why? Because it is classic and timeless and there is absolutely nothing to detract (or distract) from the couple in the photograph.

Now before you rip out with two friends at sunset and try and duplicate this shot, read the second paragraph again! Let’s not make slavish copies! But instead, let’s look at how we can accomplish the effect of a monochromatic picture and silhouette. This can actually be done any time of day, but to make it easier for you, pick your favourite beach or riverside at a time when the sun can be behind your subject - be that people or things.

Now you need a tricky filter, called a “tobacco” filter. On that bright sunny day, with the light behind your subject(s) hold this brown/orange filter over the lens and pop the shutter. Stick it on Auto if you will, the camera will do the rest. Even experiment with different colours to get strangely wonderful or weirdly dreadful results.

The only point to really remember is to get the light behind the subject. You will be able to get this “pseudo sunset” look any time after 3 in the afternoon. Try it and amaze your friends with a classic silhouette - and if you don’t tell them about Larry Dale Gordon, I won’t!


Recipes from Rattana: Korean BBQ

The Do-It-Yourself BBQ on the table is becoming very popular these days, with commercial outlets dealing in nothing else available in the major shopping centres. The concept is actually no different from any BBQ, where you allow the moisture and fats to run off. With the traditional Korean BBQ you let this run off into a soup stock receptacle which is heated by the same source as the BBQ plate, BBQ dome or griddle. This recipe calls for 30 minutes of marinade, which is the secret of giving it the oriental flavour.

Ingredients Serves3-4

Beef, pork or chicken 500 gm

Dark soy sauce 2 tbspns

Light soy sauce 2 tbspns

Spring onion finely chopped 1

Garlic crushed 2 cloves

Ginger root grated 1 tspn

Sesame oil 1 tspn

Sunflower oil 2 tspn

Ground black pepper 1 pinch

Coriander leaf chopped 1 pinch

Cooking Method

Cut the meat into thin bite-sized pieces. In a shallow bowl mix the soy sauces, spring onion, garlic, ginger root, pepper and sesame oil. Stir the meat into the marinade and ensure it is all coated, sprinkle with coriander and let stand in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Brush the BBQ griddle with sunflower oil, heat and quickly BBQ the meat for about one minute on each side.

Serve with boiled rice and bean sprouts.