I’m a big fan of AMC’s Mad Men, and have only been more greatly endeared to it by the realisation that one of its most heartbreaking storylines was in fact all about double taxation.
In season five, Lane Pryce, the Englishman in New York, is caught out by an unexpected tax bill, with tragic consequences. Here is the dialogue with a man we must assume is his accountant:
Accountant: The Hansard procedure negotiations have concluded as promised, you need only wire the full £2900 by Thursday and your slate will be clean with the Inland Revenue.
Lane Pryce: As promised? Your promise was to extricate me from this situation altogether!
A: My promise was to keep you out of prison.
LP: Thursday! How am I supposed to find 8000 dollars by Thursday? That’s no help at all.
A: Look, Lane, you gave Her Majesty’s portion to a foreign power, and the tax man is keen to make an example of an expatriate. This is the very best news there could be.
Next time I need to explain international tax first principles to a non-tax audience, I will have a whole new point of reference! “Her Majesty’s portion…”