PART OF THE FURNITURE

20 Mar

M Hollow

PAINTINGS AS “PLANT OR MACHINERY”

“Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Pablo Picasso.

WRONG, Picasso, you pathetic loser. You don’t know nuffing. Three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the Joshua Reynolds painting Portrait of Omai (1775-76) is a piece of “plant or machinery” because it “had just as much function in the trade of the company (note: the tourist trade at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire) as the more prosaic tables, chairs, office and other administrative equipment.” Furthermore, the painting counts as a so-called “wasting asset” with a predictable life of less than fifty years. Well over ten times the average lifespan of a coffee table from IKEA, but still not very long. Omai was sold for £9.4 million in 2001. In 2012 its sale value was quoted as £12.5 million. The court case arose as a result of the 2001 sale, because its former owners argued that they should not have to pay capital gains tax on their profits from auctioning it. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs disagreed.

One of the three judges, Lord Justice Briggs, was apparently operating under the delusion that he’s a character from a Charles Dickens novel when he had this to say:

“It is, and despite these judgments will probably remain, surprising to those unfamiliar with the workings of Capital Gains Tax, that a famous Old Master like Omai should qualify for exemption from tax on the ground that it either ‘plant’ or a wasting asset, with a deemed predictable life of less than 50 years. But this is the occasional consequence of the working of definitions and exclusions which, while aimed successfully at one potential inroad into the charge of tax, unavoidably allow others by what the legislators appear to permit as an acceptable if unwelcome side-wind.”

Er… yeah. Thanks for sharing, baby. It’s surprising, alright.

Omai himself was an interesting fellow. His real name was Mai– mangled into Omai because, you know, English people– and he was a Polynesian from Ra’iātea. He was the second Pacific islander ever to visit Europe. During his two year stay in London this charming and handsome man was a popular fixture at high society dos. Cheeky as well. When he met King George III, Mai did so by grabbing him and exclaiming “How do, King Tosh!” I’m going to do that if I ever meet the Queen. Mai returned safely to the Society Islands, but sadly he died a few years later, before he was thirty years old.

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One Response to “PART OF THE FURNITURE”

  1. Alistair 26/03/2014 at 10:27 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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