Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Former head boy honoured for tackling tax avoidance

Former head boy honoured for tackling tax avoidance

OUR article last week on people from the Henley area who received New Year’s Honours was missing the name of Patrick Mears.

That’s because the retired solicitor has lived in London for many years but he was brought up in Henley and his mother still lives here.

Patrick was awarded an OBE for services to preventing abusive tax arrangements.

He has been chairman of the General Anti-Abuse Rule Advisory Panel since its inception in April 2013.

He says: “The panel was introduced to help change abusive tax avoidance behaviour by promoters, individuals and companies and to give Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs the power to counteract hoped-for tax advantages flowing from abusive planning.

“The panel provides an important safeguard. HMRC cannot use its counteraction powers without first referring the case to the panel for an opinion on the reasonableness of the taxpayer’s actions.

“Since July 2017 we have issued 16 panel opinions.”

Patrick, 60, was 14 in 1972 when he moved with his parents, Alex and Moira, and five younger siblings to Henley from his mother’s native Johannesburg. He was the only one of the children to have been born in England as his parents lived in London for a while after they were married.

He says: “Henley was very welcoming. All six children went to Henley schools, my mother worked as a pharmacist in and around the town and the family home has remained in Henley.”

He attended Henley Grammar School, which was within easy walking distance of the family’s home in Valley Road, and was head boy for the academic year beginning in September 1975.

Patrick says the headmaster David Henschel smoothed his transition from South Africa and he became one of the few people in the country to achieve an O-level in Afrikaans.

Among the other high achievers in his A-level year were the late Tony Bland, who became a condensed-matter physicist, Andy Cole, a consultant gastroenterologist, and Simon Huddart, a paediatric surgeon.

Patrick went on to study law at the London School of Economics and then remained in the capital as he qualified as a solicitor.

He then spent his entire private sector career from September 1980 to May 2012 based in the City with international law firm Allen & Overy. Specialising in corporate tax, he became a partner when he was only 29 and led the tax department though its international expansion.

Following his retirement, he became a trustee at Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, and last month was appointed a vice-president.

He has also chaired LSE’s alumni association since September 2013 and is a member of the university’s court of governors.

Patrick recalls representing Henley Lawn Tennis Club while at school and during the university holidays. In those days, the club was on land now occupied by Phyllis Court Club.

He spent one summer holiday working at the Brakspear brewery and years later, when the site was redeveloped, his parents moved from Valley Road to Old Brewery Lane.

His father, who died in 2016, played bridge regularly at the Reading Bridge Club and Patrick represented the grammar school and he and his playing partner Andrew Brown were the Berks, Bucks and Oxon junior champions.

In 1983 Patrick married Carol Anders, an American he met at university, at Sacred Heart Church. Sadly, Carol died suddenly in 1987, only 18 days after the birth of the couple’s daughter, Libby, now 31. The funeral was held at the same church and Libby was christened there the next day.

A bench with a plaque in memory of Carol has existed on the towpath in Mill Meadows facing the river for 30 years.

Patrick remarried in London in December 1995 and he and his wife Rachel Anderson have a son, Matthew, who is now 19.

Over the last 40 years he has visited Henley many times to see his parents and for family gatherings.

He says: “With my parents having six children and 13 grandchildren, these tend to be big events.”

He usually takes a walk along the river as he enjoys the peacefulness compared with London.

Patrick says: “Curiously, the change in Henley that has continually struck me over the years has been the road and pedestrian configuration of the space in front of the town hall.

“I have memories of driving around the town hall twice en route to an away tennis Henley Tennis Club match. I had just passed my driving test and our team of six was in two cars and I had agreed to follow the other car…”

And what about his latest accolade? “I am proud to have been honoured,” says Patrick.

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