Generally, tax relief is available, but the rules are different if you’re a small business using the cash basis…

Tax relief on business-related loans

Subject to certain conditions and restrictions, tax relief will generally be available for interest paid on loans to, or overdrafts of, a business in the form of a deductible expense. Different rules for loan interest relief apply to smaller businesses using HMRC’s cash basis for income tax purposes (see below).

One of the main qualifying conditions for the deduction is that the interest must be paid wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business and at a reasonable rate of interest. Tax relief is only available on interest payments – the repayment of the capital element of a loan is never tax-deductible.

Where only part of a loan satisfies the conditions for interest relief, only a proportion of the interest will be eligible, for example, interest payable in respect of, say, a car used partly for business and partly for private purposes will be apportioned accordingly. Note, however, that tax relief is not available for an employee using a privately-owned car for the purposes of his or her employment, although tax-free business mileage payments may usually be claimed.

A deduction cannot be claimed for notional interest that might have been obtained if money had been invested rather than spent on (for example) repairs.

In addition, a deduction will not be allowed if a loan effectively funds a business owner’s overdrawn current/capital account.

Anti-avoidance rules exist to prevent tax relief on loan interest paid where the sole or main benefit to the payer from the transaction is to obtain a tax advantage.

Incidental costs

In addition to loan interest relief, the incidental costs of obtaining loan finance, such as fees, commissions, advertising and printing, will also be deductible in most cases. The deduction for incidental costs is given at the same time as any other deduction in computing profits for income tax purposes.

Cash basis

From 2013/14 onwards, eligible unincorporated small businesses may choose to use the cash basis when calculating taxable income, and all unincorporated businesses have the option to use certain flat-rate expenses when calculating taxable income.

The general rule for businesses that have chosen to use the cash basis is that no deduction is allowed for the interest paid on a loan. This is however, subject to a specific exception. Where the deduction for loan interest would be disallowed under this general rule or because (and only because) it is not an expense wholly and exclusively for the trade, a deduction is allowed of up to £500.

This £500 limit does not apply to payments of interest on purchases, provided the purchase itself is an allowable expense, as this is not cash borrowing. However, if the item purchased is used for both business and non-business purposes, only the proportion of interest related to the business usage is allowable.

If a deduction is also claimed for the incidental costs of obtaining finance, the maximum deduction for both these expenses together is £500.

If a business has interest and finance costs of less than £500 then the split between business costs and any personal interest charges does not have to be calculated.

Businesses should review annual business interest costs – if it is anticipated that these costs will be more than £500, it may be more appropriate for the business to opt out of the cash basis and obtain tax relief for all the business-related financing costs.

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With holiday season in full swing, we explain the strict scenarios where you can deduct for business entertaining and gifts in calculating taxable profits.

Can we deduct entertaining expenses?

The tax rules on the deductibility of entertaining expenses are harsh and often misunderstood – the fact that the expenditure is incurred for businesses purposes does not make it deductible. Subject to certain limited exceptions, no deduction is allowed for business entertaining and gifts in calculating taxable profits.

What counts as business entertainment?

Business entertainment is the provision of free or subsidised hospitality or entertainment. Hospitality includes the provision of food drink or similar benefits for which no payment is made by the recipient. It also extends to subsidised hospitality whereby the charge made to the recipient does not cover the costs of providing the entertainment or hospitality.

Examples of business entertaining would include taking a supplier to lunch, taking customers to a day at the races, or inviting them to a box at rugby match, and suchlike. The definition is wide.

Exception 1: Entertaining employees

One of the main exceptions to the general rule that entertaining expenses cannot be deducted is in relation to staff entertainment. A deduction is allowed for the cost of entertaining staff, as long as the costs are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade and the entertaining of the staff is not merely incidental to the entertaining of customers. So, for example, a company would be able to deduct the cost of the staff Christmas party in calculating its taxable profits. However, if a company takes customers to Wimbledon, the fact that a number of employees also attended is not enough to guarantee a deduction as the entertaining provided for the employees is incidental to that for customers.

It should be noted that unless an exemption is in point, employees may suffer a benefit in kind tax charge on any entertainment provided.

Exception 2: Normal course of trade

The disallowance does not apply where the business is that of providing hospitality, and as such a deduction is allowed for the costs incurred in providing that hospitality as long as they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business. Businesses such as restaurants and events management companies would fall into this category.

Exception 3: Contractual obligation to provide entertainment

Where entertainment is provided under a contractual obligation, this is not treated as business entertainment and a deduction is allowed for the cost. A common example would be where hospitality is provided as part of a package. However, the business should be able to demonstrate that they have received a full return for the entertainment provided.

Exception 4: Small gifts carrying an advert

The provision of business gifts is treated as business entertaining with the result that a deduction for the costs is not generally allowed. However, there is an exception for gifts costing not more than £50 per year per recipient which bear a conspicuous advert for the business. An example of a deductible gift would be a diary or a water bottle featuring an advert for the business.

Remember…

Just because entertaining is incurred for business purposes does not mean that it is allowable – business entertaining needs to be added back in the corporation tax computation.

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The last thing you want for Christmas is an inheritance tax liability! Read this blog to make sure you don’t get caught.

Beware of triggering an IHT bill on Christmas gifts

When deciding what to give as Christmas gifts, the possibility of triggering an unintended inheritance tax liability is not one that immediately springs to mind. However, there are traps that may catch the unwary.

Income or capital

When making a gift, it is important to ascertain whether the gift is being made out of income or from capital. There is an inheritance tax exemption for normal expenditure from income. To qualify, the gift must be made regularly and only from surplus income. It is important that after making the gift you have sufficient income left to maintain your usual lifestyle. To avoid unwanted questions, it is a good idea to set up a regular pattern of giving and keep records to show that the gifts were made from income.

A gift that is made from capital – for example, from the proceeds from the sale of a property or a gift of a valuable antique – will reduce the value of the estate. Unless the gift falls within the ambit of another exemption, the gift will be a potentially exempt transfer (PET) and will be taken into account in working out the inheritance tax due on the estate if you die within seven years of making the gift.

Gifts to spouses and civil partners

The inter-spouse exemption protects gifts between spouses and civil partners. Consequently, gifts of any value can be given to a spouse or civil partner without worrying about the inheritance tax implications.

Annual allowance

Everyone has an annual allowance for inheritance tax purposes of £3,000. The annual allowance enables you to give away £3,000 every year in assets or cash, in addition to gifts covered by other exemptions, without it being added to the value of your estate.

You can also carry forward the annual exemption to the following year if it is not used, so if you did not use it in the last tax year, you can make gifts of up to £6,000 this year without having to worry about inheritance tax. However, any unused allowance can only be carried forward to the following tax year, after which it is lost.

Small gifts

The small gifts exemption enables you to make gifts of up to £250 a year to as many people as you like without having to keep a tally for inheritance tax purposes. However, the same person cannot benefit from a small gift of £250 in addition to the annual gifts allowance.

Wedding gifts

If a family wedding is on the horizon, you can take advantage of the wedding gifts exemption to make further gifts. To qualify, the gifts must be made before the wedding not afterwards. The exempt amounts are set at £5,000 for gifts to a child, £2,500 for gifts to a grandchild or great-grandchild and at £1,000 for a gift to another relative.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, ss. 18 – 22.

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It can pay off to keep track of your business mileage you incur for your rental properties – here’s why.

Using your car in your property rental business

Landlords will often use their car for the purposes of their property rental business. Where they do so, they are able to claim a deduction for the costs that they incur.

Using mileage rates

Where a landlord uses their car for business purposes, the easiest way to work out the amount that can be deducted is to make use of the simplified expenses system and use the relevant mileage rates to claim a deduction based on the business mileage undertaken.

For cars (and also vans) the rate is set at 45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles in the tax year and at 25p per mile for any subsequent business mileage.

Example

Karen is an unincorporated landlord and has three properties that she lets out. During the tax year, she undertakes 712 business miles in her own car in respect of her property business.

She claims a deduction of 45p per mile, a total deduction for the year of £320.40.

Deduction based on actual costs

The use of simplified expenses, while generally easier from an administration perspective, is not compulsory. The landlord can instead claim a deduction based on the actual costs. However, in practice this will be time consuming. Further, where the car is used for both business and private travel, a deduction is only permitted for the business element. Separating actual costs between business and private travel can be very time consuming and will only be worthwhile where it gives rise to a significantly higher deduction than that obtained by using the mileage rates.

Capital allowances

Capital allowances cannot be claimed where mileage allowances are claimed. Where a deduction is based on actual costs, capital allowances can be claimed in respect of the car. However, the claim must be adjusted to reflect any private use. So, for example, if a car is used for the purposes of the property business 20% of the time and for private use 80% of the claim, any capital allowance claim must be restricted to 20%.

Other travel

The costs of travel on public transport or by taxi can be deducted in computing the profits of the property rental business to the extent that it constitutes business travel for the purposes of that business.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, s. 94D

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There are five conditions that need to be met to get the tax benefits of a pool car.

When is a car a pool car?

Rather than allocating specific cars to particular employees, some employers find it preferable to operate a carpool and have a number of cars available for use by employees when they need to undertake a business journey. From a tax perspective, provided that certain conditions are met, no benefit in kind tax charge will arise where an employee makes use of a pool car.

The conditions

There are five conditions that must be met for a car to be treated as a pool car for tax purposes.

  1. The car is made available to, and actually is used by, more than one employee.
  2. In each case, it is made available by reason of the employee’s employment.
  3. The car is not ordinarily used by one employee to the exclusion of the others.
  4. In each case, any private use by the employee is merely incidental to the employee’s business use of the car.
  5. The car is not normally kept overnight on or in the vicinity of any of the residential premises where any of the employees was residing (subject to an exception if kept overnight on premises occupied by the person making the cars available).

The tax exemption only applies if all five conditions are met.

When private use is ‘merely incidental’

To meet the definition of a pool car, the car should only be available for genuine business use. However, in deciding whether this test is met, private use is disregarded as long as that private use is ‘merely incidental’ to the employee’s business use of the car.

HMRC regard the test as being a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. It does not refer to the actual private mileage, rather the private element in the context of the journey as a whole. For example, if an employee is required to make a long business journey and takes the car home the previous evening in order to get an early start, the private use comprising the journey from work to home the previous evening would be regarded as ‘merely incidental’. The car is taken home to facilitate the business journey the following day.

Kept overnight at employee’s homes – the 60% test

For a car to meet the definition of a pool car, it must not normally be kept overnight at employees’ homes. In deciding whether this test is met, HMRC apply a rule of thumb – as long as the total number of nights on which a car is taken home by employees, for whatever reason, is less than 60% of the total number of nights in the period, HMRC accept that the condition is met.

When a benefit in kind tax charge arises

If the car does not meet the definition of a pool car and is made available for the employee’s private use, a tax charge will arise under the company car tax rules.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 167.

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Inspired by Grand Designs? You are entitled for a VAT refund if you build your own home.

VAT refunds for DIY builders

If you build your own house or convert an existing property into a home, you may be eligible to apply for a VAT refund on building materials and services. You do not need to be VAT registered to claim a refund.

What qualifies?

Refunds can be claimed in respect of building materials that are incorporated into the building and which cannot be removed without tools or without damaging the building. Refunds are available for materials used to build both new homes and for certain conversions.

A new home will qualify if it is separate and self-contained and you build it for you and your family to live in. The property must not be used for business purposes, although you are permitted to use one room as a home office.

Conversions will qualify if the property was previously used for non-residential purposes and is converted for residential use. Conversions of residential building will only qualify if they have not been lived in for at least 10 years.

Where you use a builder, the builder’s services will normally be zero-rated where they work on a new home. However, you can claim a refund for VAT charged by a builder working on a conversion.

What does not qualify?

Refunds are not available in respect of:

  • materials or services on which no VAT is payable because they are zero-rated or exempt;
  • professional fees, such as architects’ fees or surveyors’ fees;
  • costs of hiring machinery or equipment;
  • building materials which are not permanently attached to or part of the building;
  • fitted furniture, some gas and electrical appliances, carpets and garden ornaments.

A refund is also denied if the building is not capable of being sold separately, for example, as a result of planning restrictions.

How to claim

The claim is made on form 431NB where it relates to a new build and on form 431 where it relates to a conversion. The forms are available on the Gov.uk website. The claim must be made within three months of the date on which the building work was completed.

You must include all the relevant supporting documentation with your claim, such as valid VAT invoices to support the amount claimed. The refund will normally be issued within 30 days of making the claim.

Partner note: www.gov.uk/vat-building-new-home/eligibility.

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Make sure to share this article with anyone you know who runs a family business – so they can take advantage of the many ways to lower their tax bill!

Optimising tax-free benefits in family companies

Making use of statutory exemptions for certain benefits-in-kind offers an opportunity to extract funds from a family company without triggering a tax charge.

The essential point to note is that to make the tax saving, the benefit itself, rather than the funds with which to buy the benefit, must be provided.

Mobiles

No tax charge arises where an employer provides an employee with a mobile phone, irrespective of the level of private use. The exemption applies to one phone per employee.

A taxable benefit will however, arise if the employer meets the employee’s private bill for a mobile phone or if top-up vouchers are provided which can be used on any phone

Example

John and Jan Smith are directors of their family-owned company. Their two children also work for the company. The company takes out a contract for four mobile phones and provides each member of the family with a phone. The bills are paid directly to the phone provider by the company. The bills are deductible in computing profits. Each family member receives the use of a phone tax-free, which means they do not need to fund one from their post-tax income.

Pension contributions

Pensions remain a particularly tax-efficient form of savings since nearly everyone is entitled to receive relief on contributions up to an annual maximum regardless of whether they pay tax or not. The maximum amount on which a non-taxpayer can currently receive basic rate tax relief is £3,600. So an individual can pay in £2,880 a year, but £3,600 will be the amount actually invested by the pension provider. Higher amounts may be invested, but tax relief will not be given on the excess. Any tax relief received from HMRC on excess contributions may have to be repaid.

Pension contributions paid by a company in respect of its directors or employees are allowable unless there is an identifiable non-trade purpose. Contributions relating to a controlling director (one who owns more than 20% of the company’s share capital), or an employee who is a relative or close friend of the controlling director, may be queried by HMRC. In establishing whether a payment is for the purposes of the trade, HMRC will examine the company’s intentions in making the payment.

Pension contributions will be viewed in the light of the overall remuneration package and if the level of the package is excessive for the value of the work undertaken, the contributions may be disallowed. However, HMRC will generally accept that contributions are paid ‘wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade’ where the remuneration package paid is comparable with that paid to unconnected employees performing duties of similar value.

Other tax-free benefits

Subject to certain conditions being satisfied, other tax-free benefits that a family company may consider include:

  • bicycles or bicycle safety equipment for travel to work
  • gifts not costing more than £250 per year from any one donor
  • Christmas and other parties, dinners, etc, provided the total cost to the employer for each person attending is not more than £150 a year
  • one health screening and one medical check-up per employee, per year
  • the first £500 worth of pensions advice provided to an employee (including former and prospective employees) in a tax year
  • medical treatments recommended by employer-arranged occupational health services. The exemption is subject to an annual cap of £500 per employee

Employing family members, and providing them tax-free benefits, often enables a family-owned company to take advantage of the lower tax rates, personal allowances and exemptions that may be available to a spouse, civil partner, or children. In turn, this arrangement can help reduce the household’s overall tax bill.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, s 244, s 308C, s 319; BIM46035, BIM47105

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A quick summary of the new tax bands for CO2 car emissions which will be introduced from April next year:

Are low emissions cars tax efficient?

Significant changes are being made from 2020-21 to the company car tax benefits-in-kind bands affecting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

The taxable benefit arising on a car is calculated using the car’s full manufacturer’s published UK list price, including the full value of any accessories. This figure is then multiplied by the ‘appropriate percentage’, which can be found by reference to the car’s CO2 emissions level. This will give the taxable value of the car benefit. The employee pays income tax on the final figure at their appropriate tax rate: 20% for basic rate taxpayers, 40% for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers. This formula means that in general terms, the lower the C02 emissions of the car, the lower the resulting tax charge will be.

For 2019-20, the appropriate percentage for cars (whether fully electric or not) is 16% for those emitting 50g/km CO2 or below, and 19% for those emitting CO2 of between 51 and 75g/km. This means that the taxable benefit arising on a zero-emissions car costing, say £30,000 is £4,800, with tax payable of £960 for a basic rate taxpayer – for a higher rate taxpayer this equates to tax payable of £1,920

By way of comparison, a 2001cc petrol-engine car with a list price of £30,000, will attract an appropriate percentage of 37% in 2019-20. This equates to a taxable benefit charge of £11,100, and a liability of £2,220 a year for a basic rate taxpayer.

New bands

In April 2020, new ULEV rates will be introduced, and the most tax efficient cars will be those with CO2 emissions below 50g/km. There will also be additional financial incentives for electric only cars

From 2020-21, five new bandings are being introduced for full and hybrid electric cars. Fully electric (zero emissions) cars will attract an appropriate percentage of just 2%. This means that the tax benefit arising on an electric car costing say, £30,000 will be just £600. The resulting tax payable by a basic rate taxpayer will be £120 a year and £240 for a higher rate taxpayer.

For cars emitting CO2 of between 1 and 50g/km, the appropriate percentage will depend on the car’s electric range figure:

MileagePercentage
130 miles or more 2%
70 – 129 miles5%
40-69 miles8%
30-39 miles12%
Less than 30 miles14%

ULEVs with CO2 emissions of between 50g-74g/km CO2 will be on a graduated scale from 15% to 19% (as is currently the case, diesel-only vehicles will continue to attract a further 4% surcharge) as follows:

CO2 emissionsPercentage
51 to 54g/km15%
55 to 59g/km16%
60 to 64g/km17%
65 to 69g/km18%
70 to 74g/km19%
75 or more20%
Plus1% per 5g/km
Up to a maximum37%

Whilst the journey towards ‘greener’ driving has been, and continues to be, a rocky one, in 2014/15 a sub-130g/km petrol car was considered green enough to merit an 18% appropriate percentage. However, by 2020/21, the appropriate percentage on such a car will have risen to 30%. A sub-100g/km band car that was only subject to a 12% charge in 2014/15 will also have risen to 24% by 2020/21. On the other hand, clean air all-electric cars will finally plummet to 2% under the new company car tax incentives from April 2020.

The incentives in the new tax bands are clearly designed to encourage ULEVs as a company car driver’s car of choice, and with around 1 million company car drivers in the UK, this benefit is likely to remain one of the most popular and potent perks of a job.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, ss 139-142; Finance Act (2) Part 1 s2

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Don’t lose out on tax reliefs for start-ups

Just starting out
As long as HMRC can be satisfied that a business is being run on a commercial basis with a view to making a profit, they will usually allow taxpayers to claim tax relief for a trading loss in one tax year against other taxable income (for example PAYE income or a pension) from the same year, or the preceding year. This can be quite beneficial as the claimant can choose which year to claim the losses against. However, HMRC will usually restrict loss relief claimed by individuals who carry on a trade but spend an average of less than ten hours a week on commercial activities.
Early days
The provisions for tax relief on business losses can be particularly useful in the early years of trading. Broadly, this is because a loss incurred in any of the first four tax years of a new business may be carried back against total income of the three previous tax years, starting with the earliest year. Therefore, if tax has been paid in any of the previous three years, the taxpayer should be entitled to a repayment of tax, which may be especially welcome in those often difficult first few years of running a business.
The rules for this carry back stipulate that the maximum amount of the loss must be offset each year – it is not permissible to offset just a proportion of the loss in order to spread the loss across three years to take advantage of beneficial tax rates. Again, relief will not be available unless the taxpayer was trading on a commercial basis with a view to making a profit within a reasonable timescale. In practice, this requirement may be difficult to prove in the case of a new business and the taxpayer may need a viable business plan to support a claim.
Cap on relief
A cap now restricts certain previously unlimited income tax reliefs that may be deducted from income. Trade loss relief against general income, and early trade losses relief, as outlined above, are two areas where this restriction might apply. The cap is set at £50,000 or 25% of income, whichever is greater. ‘Income’ for the purposes of the cap is calculated as ‘total income liable to income tax’. This figure is then adjusted to include charitable donations made via payroll giving and to exclude pension contributions – the adjustment is designed to create a level playing field between those whose deductions are made before they pay income tax, and those whose deductions are made after tax. The result, known as ‘adjusted total income’, will be the measure of income for the purpose of the cap.
The cap applies to the year of the claim and any earlier or later years in which the relief claimed is allocated against total income. The limit does not apply to relief that is offset against profits from the same trade or property business.
No need to lose out
Where a loss is made in a tax year, but the trader does not have any other income against which it can be set, the loss can be carried forward indefinitely and used to reduce the first available profits of the same business in subsequent years.
Finally, losses arising from a business may be set off against any chargeable capital gains. Relief may be claimed for the tax year of the loss and/or the previous tax year. However, the trading loss first has to be used against any other income the taxpayer may have for the year of the claim (for example, against earnings from employment) in priority to any capital gains.

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Do you own a holiday cottage? You could get favourable tax treatment.

Furnished holiday lettings – is it worth qualifying?

When it comes to taxing rental income, not all properties are equal. Different rules apply to properties which meet the definition of ‘furnished holiday lettings’ (FHLs). While the rules now are not as generous as they once were, they still offer a number of tax advantages over other types of let.

Advantages

Properties that count as FHLs benefit from:

  • capital gains tax reliefs for traders (business asset rollover relief, entrepreneurs’ relief, relief for business assets and relief for loans for traders); and
  • plant and machinery capital allowances on items such as furniture, fixtures and fittings.

In addition, the profits count as earnings for pension purposes.

What counts as FHLs?

For a property to count as a FHL it must meet several tests. It must be in the UK or the European Economic Area (EEA), it must be furnished and it must be let commercially (i.e. with the intention of making a profit).

The property must also pass three occupancy conditions. The tests are applied on a tax year basis for an ongoing let, the first 12 months for a new let and the last 12 months when the let ceases.

The pattern of occupancy condition

The total of all lettings that exceed 31 continuous days in the year cannot exceed 155 days. If continuous lets of more than 31 days total more than 155 days in the tax year, the property is not a FHL.

The availability condition

The property must be let as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 210 days in the tax year. Periods where the taxpayer stays in the property are ignored as during these times the property is not available for letting.

The letting condition

The property must be commercially let as furnished holiday accommodation for at least 105 days in the year. Periods where the property is let to family or friends at reduced rate or free of charge are ignored as they do not count as commercial lets. Lets of longer than 31 days are also ignored, unless the let only exceeds 31 days as a result of unforeseen circumstances, such as the holidaymaker being unable to leave on time as a result of a delayed flight or becoming too ill to travel.

Second bite at the cherry

If seeking to secure FHL status, but the property does not meet the letting condition, all is not lost. Where the landlord has more than one property let as a FHL and the average rate of occupancy across the properties achieves the required 105 let days in the year, the condition can be met by making an averaging election.

A property may also be able to qualify if there was a genuine intention to meet the letting condition but this did not happen and the other occupancy conditions are met by making a period of grace election.

Further details on making averaging and period of grace elections can be found in HMRC helpsheet HS253 (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/furnished-holiday-lettings-hs253-self-assessment-helpsheet).

Is it worth it?

While FHLs do enjoy favourable tax treatment, these are only available if the associated conditions are met. While FHLs, particularly in prime tourist locations, may be able to command high rental values in high season, the properties may lay empty for several weeks in the off season. By contrast, a longer term let will offer an element of security that multiple short lets may not provide. The decision as to whether striving to meet the conditions is worth it, is, as always, a personal one.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, Pt. 3, Ch. 6.

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