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A firmer Fern

Jun 4, 2008, 11:33 AM
Authors : Richard
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Post date : Jun 4, 2008, 11:33 AM
The lives and waistlines of the rich and famous isn’t something that I normally worry about – not even when I am eating my Friday afternoon cherry Bakewell tart – but there was no escaping the furore over how television presenter Fern Britton had lost weight.
It even prompted a discussion on Radio 4.
Just in case there are any other Taxation readers out there who lead a similarly sheltered life - i.e. you don’t subscribe to that standard bearer of all that is decent and wholesome in today’s Britain, or indeed in today’s Britton – I refer of course to the News of the World (Sunday, 1 June).

Let me explain.
Apparently our Fern (who, I got the impression from the lady speaking in her defence on Radio 4, has the status of ‘national treasure’) had told millions of fans watching her ITV1 programme that she had lost five stones (fat, not pebbles) and that she had done this the ‘healthy way’: exercise and sensible eating and walking the dog (Rufus, where are you?).
However, the News of the World discovered ‘her secret’: a gastric band operation!
Exactly whether this story is a piece of high-quality investigative journalism or another example of the gutter press at work I leave readers to decide, but I am sure that many of you will wish to peruse the whole sad and sorry tale on the NOTW website (although probably not while you are eating lunch).
In fact, I am sure that you can find justification for doing this in work hours – just as long as you are not distracted ny other non-tax related stories such as ‘Hollyoakes babes with spacehopper’.
The justification, just in case anyone asks or accuses you of misusing the firm's computer systems is that you will be wanting to know – along with thousands of other Taxation and no doubt NOTW and Daily Mail readers (yes that other bastion of our great society has jumped on the bandwagon) – is…
Was the expense of the operation incurred ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of’ her television presenter duties?

As Fern apparently earns £700,000 a year for her TV work, I guess that she wouldn’t have relied on the good old National Health Service for the op and would have gone private.
Potentially, she might therefore be claiming tax relief at 40%, but then the programme only appears on four days of the week, so is there an element of private use on the other three days?
But then again, it is also reported that she earns £200,000pa for advertising Ryvita – now that must be a good claim for relief – but would that be as an employee or self-employed?
But does it matter, the ‘wholly and exclusively’ condition is common to both types of income, so is the condition satisfied or is there the duality of private use?
Although (mental and perhaps slightly metaphysical note to the Inspector reviewing any claim) can you have private use of something that you haven’t got anymore?
All of this is starting to confuse me, anyway, back to the subject in hand – well perhaps not ‘in hand’ exactly - this week’s Taxation has an interesting article: Fitness for purpose (now that's a strangely relevant title here as well) by Mike Scoltock on the allowability or otherwise of rugby players’ health products and food supplements, etc.

If putting weight on isn't allowable, then surely getting it off shouldn't be either. It would have been good to know for sure, and I guess that we will just have to weight, sorry, wait until the claim gets to the Special Commissioners.
If only the NOTW had been quicker off the mark, Mike might have included this in his article.

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