The Punter Who Defied and Defeated the Tax Man – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…

SADLY, HE IS EFFECTIVELY a forgotten man today. After all, his significant achievement took place effectively one hundred years ago. But all winning punters owe a gratitude of debt to Mr Alexander Graham, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire.

In March, 1925, Mr Graham had received a demand for £300 from the Inland Revenue, who had sent him a bill for that amount in respect of money he had received as a result of his betting transactions, quoting Schedule D of the 1918 Income Tax Act in justification of their demand.

Mr Graham did not deny being a gambler, and admitted to making money as a result of betting from his home on horses at starting prices. But he certainly wasn’t about to stand for the taxman demanding a share of his winnings.

This, he attested, was his only livelihood – and had been so for the last several years. His only other income was the interest from savings on deposit with his bank.

The dispute had now gone to court, with The Crown contending that Mr Graham should be assessed ‘under Schedule D (1) of the Act, in respect of (a) the annual profits or gains arising or accruing….(2)….from any trade, profession, employment or vocation, and (b)….other annual profits or gains not charged under Schedule A, B, C, or E, and not specially exempted from tax.’

Mr Graham’s ‘vocation was that of professional gambler’ contended the Revenue, which was pressing for settlement.

But Mr Graham’s counsel declared that backing horses ‘could not be a trade or vocation’. The betting had been carried out at starting prices, ‘and no business or system could be constructed of such betting.’

Counsel also explained that such a form of betting differed entirely from the form of business carried out by a professional bookmaker.

Mr Graham sensationally won the decision, on the basis that as a private individual he could not legally be said to be carrying on a profession as a gambler. Had his premises been registered as any form of gambling enterprise this would have proved a far more difficult case to prove.

In giving his judgement, Mr Justice Rowlett asked, ‘What is a bet? A bet is merely an irrational agreement that one person should pay another person something on the happening of an event’ – a very neat turn of phrase.

He added; ‘There is no tax on habit’ and declared that he was not prepared to give judgement for the Inland Revenue.
There should surely be an annual sponsored race run in honour of the worthy and determined Mr Graham’s defiance of the tax man!


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Author: Eugene Morris