Franklin-Christoph Contra Mundum
When, over forty years ago, my manic creative alter-ego James Douglas, tied to me by bonds so strong, such that no opiate or antipsychotic can break (from bitter experience), began tentatively to write, he would get into mood by meditating on the choice of pen; never realising that one day that would provide the perfect introduction to a sensible discussion on tax, and the iniquitous organs of state emanating from the Treasury, in particular HM Revenue & Customs, and the insipid craven clearly-about-a-mile-from independent judiciary.
Inspired by James’ conclusion to his Compendium article (October 2016) “go no further than www.franklin-christoph.com”, I picked up my brand new Franklin-Christoph 45 XLV Amber Michael Masuyama Needlepoint, which with the steel nib option is a helluva lot of pen for £100. With mature technology like the fountain pen, Franklin-Christoph, a company dating back to 1901, but which only segued into pen manufacture about fifteen years ago, has had to show that some great names may have been trading on their laurels:
- Co-branding with Michael Masuyama emphasises the highly individual nature of the range. Masuyama hand-grinds all Masuyama nibs himself, and will redo the job (or anyone else’s nib) for about £50 www.mikeitwork.com
- Franklin-Christoph competes on price and quality with the Mercedes of pens Pelikan. By offering steel nibs (every bit as good as gold) you can get world-beating quality at entry-level prices
- The range of nibs is huge (including 18 karat gold) emphasising that this is a writing instrument, a street-weapon of choice for the discerning tax accountant or music correspondent
- Quirky individual original styling does not compromise traditional attention to detail which is exemplary. The 45 has its cap-thread below the nib section, neatly disguised as a banding embellishment, so it never gets in your way.
- The build quality means that the translucent and transparent models make fabulous eye-droppers, flamboyantly splashing ink around the barrel, cartridge-free. The pen is delivered with a very pretty branded leather zippered case which you’d be wise to use if eye-dropping, although neither of my Franklin-Christoph’s has ever blotted or leaked a drop.
- The pocket range (including the 45 XLV under consideration) emphasises the functionality. You’ll find you have to post the cap (stick it on the end of the barrel) because the pen is too short without it (hence the term “pocket”). Not only does it make the pen feel different (and fun) but it draws on the quality of the machined acrylic (always fitting very neatly).
Praise for this innovative family company sits well in an article about tax, because if it were a British company (rather than American), it would attract possible use of the Enterprise Investment Scheme. However it would be wise to read the small-print very carefully, because HMRC takes a most un-British punctiliously negative attitude to detail. It’s worrying that the courts don’t stand up to HMRC and apply the concept of equity which I had thought was enshrined in our gloriously unwritten constitution; there have been some truly shocking decisions. Anyone who understands anything about the contribution of liberal enlightened thinking to the development of British culture will feel alarmed by the decision in Flix Innovations Ltd v HMRC. The facts of the case and its merits have been explored substantively elsewhere, but in brief Flix restructured its shares for the development of a digital system of cinematic film distribution, in a manner that fulfilled all the intentions of the reliefs under the legislation. A technical immaterial deferred element of the shareholding meant that HMRC was able to withdraw EIS relief on the grounds that Parliament intended the letter of the law to be applied. No it didn’t. Parliament definitely intended innovation like Flix’s system to be allowable for EIS. You may recall the much-discussed concept of immoral tax avoidance being taxpayers taking advantage of loopholes that Parliament didn’t intend. You might be forgiven for wondering where the fundamental concept of equity in law has gone, where the letter of the law is applied over the spirit. It should worry you that the courts are clearly rubber-stamping revenue spin. And you might like the way the courts apply one rule for the taxpayer, and a quite different one for the revenue. EIS is a great relief in theory. In practice you’ll find it’s a great relief when you get it.
At least my feelings of righteous indignation have been soothed by the pretty Franklin-Christoph with which I’ve penned these thoughts.
Douglas Shanks and John Handley are DSC Metropolitan Chartered Accountants’ very neat handwriting with fountain pen partners