Thursday, 29 October 2015

Jews, Christians and Palestinians, historically and today who has a rightful claim to Israel

This is a much contested topic, the Muslim Palestinians insisting on a right of return, the Jews claiming Israel is their's, so who is right?
Firstly we need to clarify a few facts (hereafter, Palestine means Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip collectively and does not include the former parts of the French Palestine, being Syria and Lebanon).

Population of Palestine (numbers)

In 1920, the official British Government's Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine by T.E. Lawrence stated that there were hardly 700,000 people living in Palestine. Palestine at the time was today's Jordan, Israel, Gaza Strip and the West Bank, meaning today the population of the same area is 18.7 million (an increase of 18 million over the last 95 years).  To put this into perspective, the entire area of what was then called Palestine was 116,127 km², slightly smaller than the small African nation of Eritrea with a population of 6,380,803 (2014). The 1920 report stated that the demographics of Palestine were:
  • 78% were Muslim (a small proportion of these were Bedouin Arabs, the rest were largely of mixed race).
  • About 11.1% of the population were Christians.
  • About 10.9% of the population where Jews.

Birth Rates

Each year, Jordan has a birth rate of 25.23 births per 1,000 population, the Palestinian Territories have a birth rate of 24.56 births per 1,000 population and Israel has a birth rate of 21.3 births per 1,000 population.  Statistically there are about 3.3 generations every 100 years on average, this means that to obtain a naturally born population from 700,000 to 18.7 million in 95 years is impossible, meaning that the population increases were mainly due to immigration on all sides.  Also, it would be very unlikely that today's couple's would have a blood line that originates solely from 1920 relatives, and any such unlikely couples would be so few and be of no statistical consequence.

Land Size & Governance

The size of Jordan is 89,342 km², the size of Israel is 20,770 km², the size of the West Bank is 5,655 km² and the size of the Gaza Strip is 360 km².  This means that today's Israel is 17.9% of the former Palestine and the other 82.1% of the land is under Muslim Arab rule. There is no Christian rule today.

Immigration

The Arab population of Palestine doubled during the British Mandate era, from 670,000 in 1922 to over 1.2 million in 1948, mainly due to Amin al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti) calling for Muslims to immigrate into the area to drive out the Jews. The British also put limits on Jews entering in an effort to appease the Arabs due to oil (there were no limits for Arabs or Christians). In 1922, only 11% of the population had lived in Palestine for over 20 years.

Origins

Muslim Arabs
The Arabas in the Gaza Strip are 99.8% Sunni Muslims.  They originate from Egyptian Fellahins and Muslims who resided inside Israel pre 1948 who left Israel to fight alongside the Egyptians against Isarel, left out of fear due to back fired Arab propaganda, evictions from their homes by Jewish landlords and the rest were driven out by Jewish Militias.  The Muslims in the West Bank are of mixed race, many of whom were driven out of Jordan during Black September and left Israel under similar circumstances to the Muslim Arabs in the Gaza Strip.  For the curious readers, the Arab propaganda was a failed attempt to frighten the Arabs into fighting the Jews, spreading rumours like "Jews going into towns and eating Arab babies".  This had a detrimental effect for the Arab leadership, as Arab families left in fear instead of rising to arms.

Jews
The Jews are again of mixed race, today 35.11% of Jews parents came from Europe, America or Oceana, 15.53% from Muslim ruled African countries and 12.33% from Muslim ruled Asian countries.  The remaining 37% had parents born Israel.  Before and after 1948, the Jews that came from Africa and Asia where kicked out of their homes (estimated 900,000), and fled to Israel, England and America.

Christians and Others
In the Palestinian Territories, Christian and other populations have decreased drastically.  In Israel there has been an increase.  Christians have always lived in the area, mainly places like Bethlehem where in 1948 they were 85% of the population, today they are 6% in Bethlehem.

Synopsis

Due to the lack of records, the statistics available are not very accurate and are estimates at best.  What is obvious that today nearly 100% of the population in Jordan, Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip all have immigrant descendants.  To claim historical claims today does not hold any weight in the argument of who should rule what.

It was also Amin al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem whose nephew was Yasser Arafat) who wrote to Hitler on 28 November 1940 asking for Hitler's help in establishing Arab states "that would support the elimination of a national Jewish homeland", which was an admission by the then Arab leader that what is now Israel was a Jewish majority "homeland" back then as you can't eliminate something that doesn't exist.

In modern Western societies we have democracy, giving people the right to choose their leadership.  Under this principle, the current inhabitants of areas should be allowed to choose who they want to be governed by, meaning that if there is a Two State Solution, the boundaries would be more or less as they are today.  The exceptions would be the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, however to deny a person the right to live on land or vote based solely on their religion (a stance currently held by the Palestinian Authority), is a violation of International Human Rights and has no place in modern society. The Jewish settlers don't help the situation and are not the cause, however these are poor people who can't afford to live in Israel and are attracted by cheap housing and religious beliefs.

At the time of writing this is when Palestinian terrorists are going around Israel trying to stab Jews.  The current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has publicly asked the Chairman of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to attend peace talks, however Abbas has refused (go to 13:20 in this video).


* All statistics and facts can be easily verified via Google

Friday, 3 October 2014

Business Rates Appeals


Business Rates Appeals and Refunds
Business Rates Appeals & Refunds

Don't Get Ripped Off

Businesses all over the UK are overpaying their business rates, and far too often are being ripped off further by so called "Business Rates Specialists" who just lodge an appeal, let the VOA do what they would do for free and then charge you a huge commission, and sometimes even have the audacity to charge you more commission on future savings!  My first bit of free advice, stay away from these cowboys and conmen!

I do not do this, I will not charge you a penny unless you receive a refund, in which case I will only charge you 20% of that refund, any future savings are for you to keep, after all, if you pay a solicitor to represent you, he gets one fee, not a recurring fee every year after the case has finished.



Business Rates Refunds

Due to what has now become an obsession of mine and the experience and knowledge I have on the matter, along with my legal experience, I am now representing large and small companies regarding their business rates and getting them huge refunds and savings.

I have just this week completed a case for a small alarm company who occupied offices in Borehamwood that where only 107 square meters, paying around £850 per month in business rates.  In under one year I managed to get them nearly a £48,000.00 refund on their 2010 listing!

Other rating agencies will tell you that this is impossible as they only would have paid £34,000 in business rates for the 2010 period.  The reason I managed to get far more is due to my legal experience and knowledge of UK law and the fact I actually do work and don't just leave it to the VOA.  If they tell you it was because I must have appealed the 2005 list as well, tell them where to go as appeals on that list closed years ago.

It's points like this that separate the knowledgeable and honest Business Rates Specialist like myself from the cowboys.  From my knowledge there are only two other Business Rates Specialist Companies (besides myself) in the UK that I would say are honest, and they don't advertise or have convincing salesmen.  If they need to convince you with flashy sales brochures and pushy salesmen, run away as referrals and reputation in matters like these should talk for themselves.


About Me

Unfortunately I am only one person and do not do this full time as I have other business interests, so I am limited to how many cases I can take on.  If I feel that all you need to do is fill out an appeal form on-line, then I will advise you to do this yourself and save your money.  If I see that you will need expert advice and that you have a case, I will consider taking on your case.  Dealing with a business rates appeal properly is very time consuming, so that is why I am limited to how many clients I can take on.

If you do want me to consider your business rates and would like me to consider representing you, please email me.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Business Rates appeals in England, overcharges and my fight - Part 2

In my last post I spoke about how my original rateable value of £18,500 got reduced to £12,500, even though the Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS) made a huge mistake.

I knew that the VTS had made some pretty bad mistakes in their ruling, mainly the fact that they based their ruling on incorrect evidence, being that two other units equated to £93.56 /sqm on their rent which was calculated using a measuring practice called In Terms Of Main Space (ITMS).  As mine was larger, with a quantum discount and the fact mine wasn't insulated or heated, they ruled mine should be £70/sqm.

ITMS (In Terms of Main Space)

Let me try to explain what this is.  Lets say we have a new  heated and insulated warehouse with a warehouse space of 100 square meters (100sqm) and an office space of 50 square meters (50sqm), all on the ground floor. The rent on the property for a full repairing lease is £8,000 per year. To establish what the basic value per square meter is, we use ITMS :
The warehouse is worth a factor of 1.0/sqm
The Office is worth a factor of 1.2/sqm
We then multiply the areas by their factors to get the ITMS value:
Warehouse = 100sqm x 1.0 = 100sqm
Office = 50sqm x 1.2 = 60sqm
The building, although it physically only measures 100sqm, we need to access the area In Terms Of Main Space:
ITMS area of 100sqm + 60sqm = 160sqm
To get the basic rate per square meter for the property we divide the rent by the ITMS which gives us:
£8,000 / 160sqm = £50 per meter square

What Happend Next

As I knew that the VTS had made some pretty bad mistakes, I appealed to the Upper Lands Tribunal which cost me a £250 court fee, however if I win the VOA have to pay me this cost.  I then measured the other properties with the VOA and we both established that using correct ITMS areas, the correct basic value for a normal warehouse was not £93.56 /sqm, in fact it equated to £70.00 /sqm, however mine was subject to quantum discount.

Quantum Discount

Quantum discount is basically the larger the building, the lower the rent is going to be per square meter.  For instance, if we have 2 small industrial units next to each other, both asking £5,000 rent.  If you went to the landlord and asked to rent both, you could and would get a discount and maybe only pay £4,000 for each unit.  Together the rent payable for the larger unit is £8,000 and not £10,000, thus you have a discount of £2,000 which is your quantum discount.

As this is pretty retrospective, the VOA have a table that they work from, basically for the properties on my estate an many others up and down the country, it goes as follows:

Size from (sqm)
Size to (sqm)
Factor
0
150
100%
150
214
100% down to 70%
214
500
70%
500
538
70% down to 65%
538
1250
65%
1250
1354
65% down to 60%
1354
2500
60%
2500
3000
60% down to 50%
3000
3750
50%

As you can see, some values have a factor that is on a sliding scale down to another factor.  The reason for this is that if there was a sudden jump from 100% to 70% due to 1sqm, this would be immensely unfair.

We apply this value as follows.  If a neighbouring property is 100sqm and has a basic value of £50 per square meter, a property that is 214sqm would be valued at 70% of that value, being £35 in this example.

My property fell between the 150sqm to 214sqm gap, so I was entitled to a further discount on the newly established £70/sqm as the properties this applied to where below 150sqm.

What Was The Result

My case never got to the Upper Lands Tribunal, the VOA wanted to settle and admitted a mistake with the other ITMS values (they could have saved us all allot of work and done this earlier).  It was agreed with reluctance by the VOA that some quantum discount should be given as they argued that the scheme for our estate would be changing as the above factors were not correct according to them, therefore my rate is now going to be £58.50/sqm.  My rateable value has now been agreed to be £11,250, that is £7,000 a year lower than the £18,250 original set by the VOA, saving me £3,853 per year in business rates.  I am now due a further refund from the council for each year since 2010 for my overpayments.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Business Rates appeals in England, overcharges and my fight

I run a small business out of a small warehouse on the outskirts of London and have been victim to gross overcharging of Business rates with disgusting and unlawful practices done by the VOA.  I have been appealing my rates for 3 years now and due to the vast amount of time I have had to spend on it, and the help from some Chartered Surveyor friends, I have obtained a great deal of knowledge (even the VOA said they would employ me after the last hearing).

I operate my business from a small unit down the side of an alleyway on the outskirts of town.  The unit is a 1940's build, with asbestos roof, no parking outside, limited access and limited street parking, with space for one car for each unit on the other side of the road.

My story is as follows:


  • In 2010 I appealed my business rates of £15,500 as I discovered that our rateable value per meter square was higher than the rents and one of the highest in Borehamwood.  My property had even been rated higher than properties in the centre of town, next to the station and with fantastic facilities and transport links.
  • The VOA invited me to drop my appeal and informed me that by appealing, my rates could increase.
  • The VOA (Valuation Office) came down and re-measured the property, and as threatened, increased my rates to include areas twice, include areas that were not allowed to be included (under 1.5m in height) and charge ridiculous rates for certain areas with no allowed discount.
  • I insisted that they came down again to measure properly  This time they remeasured with me present, taking note of the measurements and areas, however they refused to implement these new measurements and instead offered me a measly discount from from a rateable value £18,250.
  • The appeal with the VTS took a few years to be heard, when it was the VOA stated that they hadn't remeasured, which changed in the hearing as to lost the new measurements after I showed evidence of them lying.  They were ordered to re-measure within a certain time and given an adjounment of over six months.
  • A new representative from the VOA came to measure on the court deadline day and asked me not to follow him round as it would take longer.  I was sent his measurements which included areas under 1 foot (remember, under 1.5m is not to be included), shelves as floor space, etc.
  • After months of negotiating, the floor areas were finally agreed.  The VOA tried lies like I accompanied their surveyor while he measured, which they backed down on when I told them of the CCTV footage.
  • In the meantime I had to keep paying the inflated business rates, even though we all knew they were too high.
  • Finally in September 2013 we went to a Valuation Tribunal Hearing (VTS).
  • The VOA submitted inaccurate and fraudulent measurements of properties that where used as a comparable.  The properties they used had large areas missing on their measurements in an attempt to show a higher price per square meter in proportion to the rent.  This was pointed out to the VTS panel by myself.
  • The VOA took 4 hours to present their case, were allowed to act as an expert witness contrary to Section 2.1, Part 35 of the Practice Directions, I had only 15 minutes to present my case due to the time constraint and the chairman started to doze off on 2 occasions (don't blame him actually).  The VOA agreed to lower the value of certain areas in the hearing and lower the value per square meter, proposing a £13,000 rateable value (could have done this years earlier to save us overpaying).
  • The VTS must publish their decision with 28 days, mine took 2 months and instead of addressing all areas and points as discussed, they just gave a general figure, letting the VTS rule what areas are worth (this is a breach of Due Process).
  • The Tribunal's decision was based on the rental evidence of 2 units in my estate, also ruling I should pay less due to something called quantum discount.  However they made simple arithmetic mistakes on the rental calculations of the 2 units, and rated them 40% too high per square meter, thus the rateable value they ruled of £12,500 for me is too high due to this mistake.
  • In the new valuation, the agreed lower rates of areas have not been implemented, as this decission was left to the VOA (the breach of Due Process).  The VTS should have made this rulling and broken down their ruling instead of just giving an unsubstantiated number.
  • I then applied to the VTS to have the hearing re-heard, they turned it down, accusing me of ignorance with measuring practices.  I made a formal complaint, still no answer.
  • I then had to pay for and make an application to the Upper Lands Tribunal for an appeal (part of the High Court).
  • The Upper Lands Tribunal ruled ex-party (we didn't need to even attend) that there was a case for appeal to the VTS decision and now I have to wait for a hearing date for the appeal.
The VOA mandate states that they have to treat me fairly and not do what they have been doing.
Using proper calculations and basing the other warehouses on correct ITMS measurement factors, my rateable value should be £7,000 per year.  ITMS (In Terms of Main Space) gives certain areas factors depending on what they are, for example production area is at a factor of 1.0, heated storage is a factor of 0.6, unheated storage at 0.5 and office space is a factor of 1.2.  To obtain the ITMS value you multiply your relevant areas by the factor, add your results up, and then divide you annual rent by the ITMS measurement to get the value per square meter (this is overly complicated).

Every small business owner I have spoken too, I have discovered are being overcharged and they can't afford to hire companies to properly represent them.  There are loads of cowboy rates appeal companies who work on commission and just lodge an appeal, if there is no automatic discount granted, they just ignore it, and the small business is screwed.

To hire a small firm to do the work I have had to do would cost more money than I will save, so with a system like we have and the abuse committed by the VOA taking advantage of the situation, small businesses are paying way too much tax (business rates goes to the Treasury and is therefore a tax).

I will keep you posted with developments.

Why are Jews So Financially Successful in the World Today

There are currently only 15 million Jews in the world, which isn't many considering that there are 7,046 million people in the world.

In the top richest people in the world, there are 3 Jews in the top 10, 6 in the top 20 and 9 in the top 30 (see http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/), however, England's richest man is way down at number 89.  There are 52 million people living in the UK, which means that there are 3.5 times as many UK citizens as there are Jews in the world.

It may be argued that some of these billionaires had a head start due to wealthy family, not so. Look at George Soros ($19.2 billion), he had to survive in Hungry during the Nazi occupation and relied on charity when he lived in London after the war, a real rags to riches story.

In America, Jews make up only 2% of the population, but 100 of 400 wealthiest Americans are of Jewish descent. A study by the Pew Forum institute found that Jews are the richest religious group in the US. Another Gallup poll found that 70% of American Jews enjoy "a high standard of living" more than any other religious group.  Most of these Jews came to America on crowded boats within the last 60 years, escaping persecution in Europe and the Middle East, settling in dirty, crowded slums in Brooklyn, deprived of work by anti-Semitics such as Henry Ford.  Working rights for Jews were only dropped after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, enabling Jews in America to work freely, yet nobody associates the Civil Rights Act or movement to the Jews, instead they are "ignored" whenever it is mentioned.

So why has this small minority of the worlds population thrived. Maybe because Jewish tradition always sanctified studying, and eduction is a major key to success and prosperity.  Jews also work and help each other as a Jewish community and were the first people to practice globalization, using their network of family and friends from all over the world.

It can't be argued that Jews are right wing capitalists, Carl Marx was Jewish and after WWII the majority of Jews were Socialist and Communist, thus many of the workers unions in America where started by Jews, and many Jews put on a watch list by the American Government due to their Communist and Socialist ideals.

It can't be argued that they invite successful people to join them and convert.  To become Jewish, you are not invited, you must study and show your dedication over years before you are accepted into the community, and not all Jews will accept you.

Lets look at me, as a Jew who grew up in a middle class, liberal Jewish household, my education was important to my parents, so they sent me to a private school, even when they couldn't afford it.  I saw my grandparents nearly every week and was close to the rest of my family.  My father spent most of his time at work earning money to support the family.  I am now married with 2 children and want only the best for my children.  I too, like my father did, work long hours so that my family can live well and to ensure that they have a chance at a good future. I am not a practicing Jew, I am atheist, but I know and respect my identity and ancestry.

Looking at my life and the lives of friends, I think it boils down to traits that nearly all Jews practice, empathy, nepotism and a sanctity for education.  I am reminded of the empathy of an old Jewish man with this recent incident (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/sleeping-stranger-subway-picture_n_4228826.html) where a Jewish man let a strange black man sleep on his shoulder on the subway.  The Jewish community works together with great nepotism, helps each other and most of all, their own family.  This empathy and nepotism, especially with our own family, as well as the desire for education gives our siblings a distinct advantage in the world today.  Maybe its because we are a small community that nepotism is so strong, or maybe it's down to the persecution we have had over the ages that we all stick together as a means of unity and defence.

Why are we such a close community, maybe that because Jews have suffered persecution and attack through the ages and even today, giving even more cause for nepotism in the community.  Benjamin Netanyahu said "If Jews laid down their arms, there would be no more Israel.  If Arabs laid down their arms, there would be peace".  Even with all the illegal terrorist acts against Jews and Israel today, still people of the world side with the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people.  As Fidel Castro once said "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews.".  People choose to forget and accuse Palestinian troubles to be the cause of the Jews.  Lets just look back at history. The original British Mandate of Palestine included what is now Jordan, Israel, Palestinian territories and parts of Syria and was supposed to be given to the Jews as a Zionist state.  The Zionist movement however suggested less land as a larger part should go to the Arabs, the British did this in 1946, giving more land than suggested to the Arabs in what is now Jordan, on the understanding that there would be no persecution of other religions or people, however they expelled all the Jews who fled to what remained of Palestine, and thus the Jordanians reneged on the mandate.  The British then subsequently broke their original agreement again and made Israel even smaller than what was previously agreed and eventually Israel was established.  Then, during the Arab Israeli war Jordan took the West Bank from Israel, and subsequently forced their Palestinians to relocate there, as well as executing some of them (Black September).  It was during the 6 day war that Israel reluctantly got the land back (it was due to military defense measures during the war and not something the Israeli Government wanted).  Lets not also forget the Palestinian leadership, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who sided with the Nazi's, visited concentration camps and asked European nations not to send their Jews to Palestine, but to the concentration camps in Poland.  When he died (he was hiding from prosecution in Beirut) his cousin took over the leadership of the Muslim Palestinians, citing Haj Amin al-Husseini as a hero, that was Yasser Arafat who then led the terrorist organisation the PLO that hijacked planes, murdered civilians, etc.  So despite the allegiances to the most evil regime in history (they still fly the Nazi flag on occasion today http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/172988#.Ur5T7fRdV8E), terrorist activities then and now, Human Rights atrocities, blatant corruption, etc., people still support the Palestinians over the Israelis and ignore what the Jordanians and Egyptians have done to the Palestinians, and what the Lebanese still do today, being apartheid towards the Palestinians.  Palestinians living in Israel are freer than in any other country in the Middle East, have the same rights as a Jew or Christian, are members of the Israeli Parliament, yet the Jewish state of Israel is blamed and persecuted.  Maybe this continuing persecution is what unites Jews in such a tight community.

I quote Steven Pinker, the Jewish Canadian academic, to maybe shed some light on the question in this blog "Jews are known for many things, but strength, swiftness, and agility are not among them. There is one trait, as controversial as it is familiar, for which Jews are above all known, and that is shrewdness in business.".  Maybe we are shrewd, we need to be to defend ourselves against persecution, however I know many a Jew who is far from shrewd in business and my step brother is a professional boxer.

This may seem a strange to quote this in this blog, but one Nazi leader said how easy it was to execute the Jews as they just accepted their fate and never defended themselves.  Obviously there were the Jewish partisans, like the Bielski's (my uncle even fought with them), however what this showed is that the Jews are not aggressive, which can also be shown as only 0.3% of the British prison population is Jewish (http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn04334.pdf).

To end this article, I will quote Edmund Wilson "The Jew lends himself easily to Communism because it enables him to devote himself to a high cause, involving all of humanity, characteristics which are natural to him as a Jew.".  This quote epitomizes empathy and nepotism within the Jewish community as we are forced to stick together due to persecution, defend ourselves with as little violence as possible (violence has very little positive effect), and this, with the embrace of education, I feel is the reason for our success.