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Ex-GWR 4200 Class 2-8-0T

4250 (2 of 8)

4250 (3 of 8)

The latest commission build has just rolled out of the paint shop and had its official portraits taken. Hopefully this will be handed over to its owner next weekend. The 7mm Finescale model represents one of the fairly numerous class of 2-8-0T heavy goods engines designed by G J Churchward for the Great Western Railway at the start of the 20th century. The type was designed for the heavy coal trains from the South Wales coalfields. Many locos survived into the 1960s, and there are at least three in preservation or undergoing restoration.

The model was partially built from a Just Like The Real Thing kit by the client, but he got a bit stuck and asked if I’d take on the project to completion. It has been an interesting exercise, and I have become rather fond of the big beast of a machine. It certainly has some presence on the workbench, and in some ways I’ll be sad to see it go.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in railway subjects. You can find out about the work I do on my web site, or you can find me on Facebook, where I post regular updates on commissions I’m working on.

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

Readers of a certain age will recall the title of this piece was a slogan coined by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs for an advertising campaign some years ago. They were trying to explain that dealing with your tax affairs needn’t be a complex thing—and to an extent, over the past few years or so, this has proved to be the case.

I am self-employed. I’m a sole trader. I have been such on and off for the past 16 years or so. As one of this growing band of entrepreneurs I must fill out a self-assessment tax form each year. Should I be so lucky as to have had a good financial year and ticked over the minimum income tax threshold, then I dutifully cough up what I owe—as well as half of what HMRC think I might owe next year. Don’t ask.

Anyway, the current bunch of cretins in charge of this fair country decided it would be a spiffing wheeze if we “hardworking” [sic] self-employed types should perform the annual tax return ritual four times a year. You can type the words “tax returns four times a year” into your preferred search engine to find any number of stories about it. Somewhat unsurprisingly, a lot of we “hardworking” [sic] self-employed types were a little upset by the notion, and an online petition was started. Of course I signed it.

Anyway, this last week the signatories received the following email from the Powers That Be:

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Scrap plans forcing self employed & small business to do 4 tax returns yearly”.

Government responded:

Making Tax Digital will not mean ‘four tax returns a year’. Quarterly updates will largely be a matter of checking data generated from record keeping software or apps and clicking ‘send’.

These reforms will not mean that businesses have to provide the equivalent of four tax returns every year. Updating HMRC through software or apps will deliver a light-touch process, much less burdensome and time-consuming than it is today.

At the March 2015 Budget the government committed to transform the tax system by introducing simple, secure and personalised digital tax accounts, removing the need for annual tax returns.

At the 2015 Spending Review the government announced it would invest £1.3bn in HMRC to make this vision a reality, transforming HMRC into one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world.

One element of this vision will be asking most businesses, self-employed people and landlords to keep track of their tax affairs digitally and update HMRC at least quarterly via their digital tax account.

Many taxpayers have told HMRC that they want more certainty over their tax bill, and don’t want to wait until the end of the year, or even longer, before knowing where they stand with their taxes.

We also estimate that £6.5bn in tax goes unpaid every year because of mistakes made when filling in tax returns. These reforms will make it easier for taxpayers to maintain accurate and up-to-date tax affairs, reducing the scope for error.

With businesses keeping track of their tax affairs digitally, quarterly updates will be fundamentally different from filling out an annual tax return in a number of crucial respects:

  • Quarterly updates will not involve all the complexity of a full tax return. The updates will be generated from existing digital business records. In most cases, little or no further entry of information will be needed. It will be much quicker to complete than the current tax return.
  • As part of the process the business owner or individual will receive a developing in-year picture of their tax position, helping people have greater certainty about what they owe, allowing them to plan their finances more effectively. This differs from the current system where many taxpayers are caught out by their tax bill when it finally arrives.
  • In-year updates will not be subject to the same sanctions for lateness or inaccuracies as apply now to the year-end position. HMRC will consult during 2016 on what sanctions might be appropriate for a more digital tax administration.

The government has already announced that these measures will not apply to individuals in employment or pensioners, unless they have secondary incomes of more than £10,000 per year from self-employment or property.

The reforms will rely on businesses, self-employed people and landlords using software or apps that can connect securely to their digital tax account. The government will ensure that free products are available. The Gov.UK service will signpost taxpayers to the right product, with clear HMRC guidance about how to choose software.

HMRC will ensure support is available for people to get online if they need it. We will also provide alternatives for those who genuinely cannot use digital tools, like telephone filing. This will build on our Needs Extra Support service, which has gone from strength to strength in helping more vulnerable customers.

We’re introducing these reforms gradually. We’ve been in discussion with stakeholders since March 2015 and will be consulting on the details of the proposals throughout 2016.

We will use volunteers to test the new tools and processes and give us feedback. Quarterly updates will be introduced for some from 2018, and will be phased in fully by 2020, giving taxpayers time to adapt.

We want to work with all stakeholders to ensure these changes work for them. For more information about the proposed reforms please search for ‘Making Tax Digital’ on Gov.UK or use the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital

HMRC

That’s a lot of words effectively saying “stop your whinging and just get on with it”.

In case you glazed over, the important bit—for me at least—was this: “Making Tax Digital will not mean ‘four tax returns a year’. Quarterly updates will largely be a matter of checking data generated from record keeping software or apps and clicking ‘send’.“.

Oh, okay. So what they’re saying is I will have to actually start keeping proper accounts with proper software, rather than maintaining a simple spreadsheet and a box full of receipts which has hitherto been quite adequate. Am I expected to spend money on this software?

“The reforms will rely on businesses, self-employed people and landlords using software or apps that can connect securely to their digital tax account. The government will ensure that free products are available. The Gov.UK service will signpost taxpayers to the right product, with clear HMRC guidance about how to choose software.”

Fair enough, I suppose. However, this still expects me to sit down every bloody quarter and punch in some figures to an online account of my taxes. Just so you know, I haven’t managed earned enough to pay income tax for several years. I don’t find an annual return at all burdensome, and doesn’t actually take me more than a couple of hours with my accountant and about 20 minutes online to complete.

Incidentally, who are these “stakeholders” that have been consulted? I’ve not been asked my opinion on this.

Rather than cutting red tape and the burden of the state, this government seems intent on doing exactly the opposite. (Surprise!) Far from a “light touch” I think it’s going to cause more annoyance than anything else. I’ve got better things to be doing than submitting quarterly updates on my lack of tax-earning ability. Why the hell would I want to keep up with my tax affairs like that anyway?

I guess it’s going to happen whatever we do. My ranting about it isn’t going to change it, so in five years I shall be grumbling about it again as the free software fails to connect to my digital tax account for the umpteenth time because I haven’t updated it or because I’ve had to dig out an old PC to run it because Mac OS or iOS aren’t supported. My guess is it’ll be like every other government IT scheme. It’ll crash and burn, and cost billions to implement, saving nothing in the long run.

This rant is brought to you by HMRC’s web site’s failure to recognise Best Beloved’s online account this year, requiring a postal password reset because he doesn’t have a registered email address with the system. It bodes well, doesn’t it?

On a brighter note…

After a couple of morose postings from me, here’s some good news. A finished model, delivered and paid for, with one happy new owner.

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Riddles WD Austerity 8F 2-8-0 No 90643. This loco ended its days at Aintree Shed, and is depicted in model form as it was photographed at some time in the mid-1960s. For its kind it is remarkably clean, probably not long from an overhaul.

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The model is built from a Just Like The Real Thing 7mm scale 1/43rd kit, with detail additions.

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The crew figures were from Andrew Stadden.

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The weathered finish has been kept to a minimum, with signs of rust, dust and grime beginning to appear.

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I don’t mind admitting this build taxed me at times. It is my first big locomotive, and it taught me quite a few lessons, as well as a few new choice phrases when things weren’t quite going to plan!

There’s room on the bench for another couple of builds now.

Another comeback?

I’ve been a fan of the Electric Light Orchestra for decades. I don’t think I am missing any of their recordings, aside from one or two obscure or rare tracks. I find ELO is the music I turn to when I need a boost, or want to relax for a while. I also love a good—or bad, actually—singalong when I’m on my own.

The last album, Zoom, was released over a decade ago. Jeff Lynne had managed to bring some of the old band members together for the recording. I felt it was Jeff’s swan song, a last fling, going out in a high. 

Last year, though, Jeff was persuaded to come out of retirement and front a tribute to ELO in Hyde Park. It was a fabulous celebration of his music, and I think he was genuinely surprised at the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it. There are, it seems, still an awful lot of ELO fans out there.

So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I discovered Jeff has been producing a new ELO album. You can hear a preview track on the American NPR web site. The new album, Alone In The Universe, is due out in November. I can’t wait. While the records are branded as ELO, it isn’t the old band. Sadly, we have lost one or two of the original members, but as the ELO sound was really Jeff’s baby, I think we can still think of the new tracks as “proper” ELO. It really does sound like classic late Seventies ELO to me, and that warms the cockles of my heart.

Where does the time go?

Hello, remember me? I know. It’s been a long time, but I don’t always have time to keep the blog updated. When I worked at a desk, pushing pixels about all day, then it was easier. Now, I’m pushing bits of metal and plastic about at a workbench, and I rarely sit at the desk even to deal with my email!

So, what’s been happening since my last post? Quite a bit, really. I’ve almost completed two commissions, spent a weekend at a big model railway exhibition up in the Midlands—and came back home with three new commissions to add to the pile—and spent a bit of time sorting the house out.

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On the modelling front, I’ve been doing some personal stuff to do with my ongoing—lifetime? It seems like it!—Battle of Britain project. Airfix has been helping out in this 75th anniversary year by producing some useful vehicle kits (and a slew of new aircraft kits) in the correct scale, one of them being the towed oil bowser here. The tractor is from Flightpath, and was a fiddly but ultimately satisfying cast and etched kit of a Fordson tractor. I now notice Flightpath has introduced the bowser as well, complete with the tractor.

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A couple of kits that have been lurking around the bench for several years also saw some progress. The Albion refueller on the left is typical RAF airfield fodder from the early Second World War; the Crossley breakdown and workshop lorry is less so, but still makes a nice model. The difference between 1/72nd and 1/76th scales becomes apparent here, as the Crossley is the latter, which makes it slightly under scale compared to the Albion.

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Meanwhile, the L&YR Aspinall saddle tank was lettered up, by client request. I delivered it in this shiny form at Telford earlier this month, at the Gauge 0 Guild convention. I looked away and when I looked back it had been weathered by my fellow weekend demonstrator, who goes by the name “Dodgy” Manton. I ought to have taken a picture! A fine job he did, as well.

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This beast is a GWR 5200 Class 2-8-0T, which has been passed to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This is as far as my client got, so I really don’t have a lot to do to complete it.

(Famous last words…)

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At the other end of the GWR spectrum, another broad gauge 6-wheeler has rolled out of the works. It needs a little weathering, but is otherwise complete. My next build for this client is something a little larger, so watch this space.

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Another commission nearing completion is this WD 2-8-0. It’s a big old model, and is just waiting for me to pluck up the courage to make it look dirty. This type of loco was pretty famous for being anything but clean when in service, so I need to break out the weathering and get it looking used.

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Finally, a fairly ropey photo of an ex-GWR Crocodile G trolley wagon, which I built up from a kit I’ve had in the personal stash for several years. I realised I needed some completed models I could show when demonstrating at exhibitions, preferably ones which were going to hang around for a while and not be passed on to their proper owners as soon as they are finished! I have several wagon and coach models I plan to try and complete for showing off purposes, and pragmatically I have opted to build them to 0 Gauge fine scale rather than ScaleSeven, in case someone makes me an offer to buy.

As I have two almost complete builds now, I am considering which models come next in the pecking order. Currently on the bench is an early diesel loco, and I ought to consider beginning construction of three coaches that have also appeared. As I type, I have something like a year’s work, which is satisfying and scary at the same time.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in 7mm scale (0 gauge) models. I try to keep the showcase section of my web site updated regularly, and my Facebook page is also worth a peep if you are into that sort of thing.

There are lots of small worlds out there

Model villages. We’re not talking about Legoland here, though that does kind of count I suppose. It does indeed appear I am not alone in my fascination for recreating the real world in miniature form. This chap, Tim Dunn, has taken his childhood fascination to an extra level and is busy documenting and recording—even saving parts of—model villages and towns of all kinds.

I salute him.

A Sort of Project

My photography has really taken a back seat of late. I’ve even started unsubscribing from some photography podcasts because I simply don’t have the time to follow them. In a vain effort to rekindle my interest—which it has, sort of—I kicked off a “one photo a week for a year” project.

You can find the somewhat lacklustre results so far on my Flickr stream

What I’ve found is I always tend to leave making an image until the last minute. Come a Sunday I cast around for something vaguely interesting to photograph, and usually end up grabbing something unartistic and bland. I am hoping I might be able to buck my ideas up a bit as the year wears on, but having hit week ten with only a couple of mildly interesting images to my credit I haven’t got my hopes up.

Still, one can but try.

Prepare to spend some time

As you know, I enjoy modelmaking of all kinds. I was always fascinated by models and miniatures used in film and TV work when I was a kid. I loved to try and work out how the effects were done, and how big the models might be.

Somehow, I found a link to a blog called Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era special fx, by a chap in New Zealand. In particular, I fell down a rabbit hole about miniature work in films. It’s a very deep hole, too, but well worth the time as it showcases some extraordinary miniature work from film makers around the world. Prepare to be surprised, too, at just how big some of the miniatures actually were!