Wednesday, May 17, 2006



Wow! What a season for West Ham. Newly promoted to the Premiership last season via the play-offs having finished sixth in the Championship, they were widely tipped as candidates to bounce straight back to the Championship. Instead they fulfilled both of my dreams, namely to finish in the top half of the table (ninth out of 20) and for Tottenham to be one point ahead of Arsenal when they played at Upton Park on the last day of the season so that we could knock them off of fourth place. The latter victory was made sweeter by the fact that Tottenham were such bad losers. Their pleas to the FA to order the game to be replayed because they chose to field some players who were not fully fit was not surprisingly rebuffed by the FA which pointed out that it has been their choice and that they had a squad of 30 players so could have played a fully fit team had they chosen. They could also have pointed out, but didn’t, that during the season Spurs won only 1 out of 5 away legs of their London derbies and that when West Ham played at White Hart Lane Tottenham could only manage a 1-1 draw in spite of having home advantage. Accordingly their implication that a fully fit Spurs would have beat us at Upton Park in front of Alan Pardew’s claret/blue army on the last day of the season, when the team always show something special, falls firmly into the category of wishful thinking.

A Cup Final place and entry into next year’s UEFA Cup were beyond my wildest dreams, but the team achieved both of these too. Of course losing the Cup Final on penalties was a great disappointment, but like most football fans I think that a penalty shoot out is an unfair way to decide a game as it depends very much on luck rather than skill. The key think was that the team played brilliantly to achieve a 3-3 draw and the game is already being talked about as one of the best finals in the last 50 years. Certainly on the trip back from Cardiff most of the supporters on my train seemed more buoyed up by the game than crushed by the result.

If only the Cubbies could do half as well as the Irons. They have started the season badly and after 36 games are second from bottom of the table having won only 15. Fortunately there’s another 126 games to go before the baseball season finishes this October, so there’s still time for improvement.

Last week I gave evidence to the Finance Bill Subcommittee of the Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords. I was asked to do so on behalf of the Institute of Indirect Taxation, so expected to talk only about MTIC fraud. I was billed to give evidence at the same time as Chas Roy-Chowdhury of the ACCA and expected that I could listen whilst he fielded the Committees questions on trusts and the other direct tax issues selected by the Committee. However someone must have recognised that I am experience in direct as well as indirect tax, as when I got there the chairman suggested that I might like to help them by giving the Committee the benefit of my personal views on the direct tax issues too.

The House of Lords is not of course entitled to comment on tax raising legislation. Accordingly the Committee seeks to confine itself to considering those areas of the Finance Bill that relate to the administration of the tax system rather than taxation as such. Its report – and my evidence – will in due course be published on the Parliament website.

Robert W Maas


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