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    « Judge bounces lawyer tax scheme fight | Main | Master of the rope »

    Sins of omission

    DPP brings tax case against eccentric barrister Cliff Pannam QC, then gives character evidence for him at bureau de spank ... From Justinian's bulging archive ... Let the heady days of September 1991 be a salutary reminder to all of us

    Cliff Pannam: understated income not inadvertent Before we welcome Clifford Pannam back to the fold on October 1, let's just look at the details of his recent troubles.

    Don't forget that Magistrate B. Barrow said, when suspending Cliff's six month's incarceration, that the famous silk was remorseful for diddling the revenue of $110,000, and that he was suffering stress and hardship because his house burnt down and his marriage broke up.

    Evidence from his old pals at the bar was to the effect that Cliff was brilliant but "eccentric".

    The Barristers' Disciplinary Tribunal put Pannam off the road for six months, part of which he spent holidaying in China.

    Quaintly enough, the Commonwealth DPP, M. Weinberg, whose office had been the informant in the court case, gave character evidence for Cliff at the tribunal's hearing.

    No doubt on October 1, because of the high regard he has for Cliff, the DPP will be sending up some briefs.

    But the facts are that Cliff was involved in willful dishonesty, which he sat on for seven years. He pleaded guilty.

    Cliff's 1981 tax return, lodged with the tax office around December 9, 1981, showed gross income from his practice as a barrister of $236,444.

    The written advice from Cliff's clerk was the gross income from his practice was $302, 908. This advice also showed a net figure of $286,444 and expenses of $16,464.

    The amount of gross income returned is $50,000 less than the net income figure shown in the clerk's advice. In other words, 16 percent of the defendant's gross income as a barrister was omitted.

    Cliff did not show the clerk's written advice to his tax agent.

    For 1982 the famous silk lodged through his tax agent a return on June 1, 1983 showing a gross income as a barrister of $288,440.

    The written advice from his clerk actually showed his gross income for the year was $348,670, with net income of $328,440 after expenses of $20, 229.

    His tax return showed a figure of $40,000 less than the net income in the clerk's advice. About 12 percent of his gross income as a barrister was omitted.

    Cliff did not show his tax agent the 1982 advice from his clerk.

    Now in 1983, Clifford's tax return lodged on May 2, 1984 showed a gross income as a barrister of $343,711. In fact, according to his clerk's advice, it was $385,199, a net income of $363,711 and expenses of $21,487.

    The amount of gross income on the return was $20,000 less than the net figure shown on the clerk's advice.

    The percentage of unreturned income in 1983 was five percent of the defendant's gross income as barrister.

    Again the tax agent was simply given the details by Clifford to fill in and file.

    Pannam QC was then caught-up in an audit by the tax boys and in the light of what they found he was reassessed.

    Initially Cliff claimed that these omissions were inadvertent errors within Taxation Ruling IT2517 and that the penalty should be reduced.

    Subsequently he withdrew his notice of objection and accepted that the omissions were not inadvertent.

    Clifford was then assessed to pay an administrative penalty of $95,041.95.

    After the silk pleaded guilty to the charge under s29B of the Crimes Act, B. Barrow gave him six months in the can, then suspended it provided he enter into a recognisance to be a good boy for 12 months, and pay costs of $8,100.

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