A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Taxing times

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, when reading any of my nine blogs to date, that occasionally I refer to religion. I’m terribly sorry, but it sometimes intrudes into my working life as well.
That may sound a bit silly, but you’d be surprised how Christianity can be pushed to the background during the normal grind. We virgers can get so wrapped up in the responsibilities of the day that we can forget the overall picture – and we’re not the only ones.
Not so long ago a visitor came up and asked, in all seriousness, “Is this place open on Sundays?”
Well, yes madam. Actually, some might go as far as to describe that as the Minster’s main purpose – even though I’m not sure the Inland Revenue does.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Minster doesn’t get VAT relief for being a church, but it’s true – in fact we face a penalty.
You see, if we were an ordinary business, we could claim 100 per cent VAT rebates on everything we bought but, because we do that ‘worship’ thing for part of the time we are open, we lose relief on that proportion of the total amount paid. In effect we get tax relief for the time we are open as a tourist attraction/concert venue, none for when we have church services going on.
I suppose we’ve got to be grateful that the Revenue gives us anything, although ‘grateful’ seems a rather limp response compared to those of our ancestors. At the north east corner of the Minster is the tomb of Henry Percy, the 4th Earl of Northumberland – killed in 1489 while collecting taxes. An extreme reaction, granted, but understandable at times.
Obviously his murderers weren’t devout Christians because we are instructed to pay up. Jesus said: “Render unto Caesar,” which, given the season, might perhaps be amended to: “Reindeer unto Caesar,”
Hahahaha – I’m sorry, I’ll get my coat.

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