We’re all familiar with the Sunday Times Rich List. Indeed, I recommend it as an educational resource to look for commonalities among our most successful citizens. Of course, the Mediocre Majority and the media use it to reinforce the politics of envy. They don’t mention the decades of slog that went into building the family fortune, or the amount of tax that has been paid from the owners’ businesses in the form of PAYE, VAT and corporation tax.
This year for the first time, The Sunday Times has taken a different perspective. It’s looked at who is paying the most tax in the UK and produced a hit parade of Philip Hammond’s biggest donors. With half the country now avoiding paying any tax at all, I wonder what the press and the public will make of the fact that just ten families will pay almost a billion pounds in tax between them in 2018?
Top of the list is the Rubin family, owners of JD Sports, who will make what Francois Hollande would have called a ‘solidarity contribution’ of £181,600,000 for the year. I make that half a million quid tax a day – I wonder if they get a ‘Thank You’ letter from 11 Downing Street?
Making money from a less healthy business are Denise Coates and family, whose Bet365 online gambling empire will be writing a cheque to HMRC for £156,000,000. Hope they can squeeze all those noughts in. If you wondered why Sir James Dyson has decided to move his business to Singapore, the answer may lie in his coming third on this list with a tax bill of £127,800,000. All other things being equal, if he’d relocated a year earlier he’s have an extra hundred million or so in the bank.
And what of Britain’s richest man, owner of Ineos Chemicals Sir Jim Ratcliffe? He must have some good tax planning in place because he only comes fifth in this list with £110,500,000 to fund a few gold-plated pensions for HMRC staff.
Britain must be polarising between half the nation gobbling pizzas and fizzy drinks to join the ranks of the morbidly obese and the other half splurging on gym kit to develop their six packs. Not only is JD Sports top of the pops, but Sports Direct owner and saviour of the High Street Mike Ashby appears further down the list with a donation of £30,400,000. Victoria Beckham’s fashion company may be struggling, but David sold enough underpants in 2018 to enable them to scrape into the Tax Top 50 in 49th place with a bill of £12,700,000.
It’s not quite as bad as California, where around 100,000 people pay half the income tax in the state, but I do hope that Jezza and his mate McDonnel are readers of the Sunday Times. The clear message here is that it would not take many James Dysons for the Treasury to start feeling the pinch. We’ve lived in a modest tax environment since the 1980s and, with many countries keen to attract wealthy people and successful businesses, there’s never been more choice for those who embrace global citizenship.
The other resource any incoming left wing government might like to study is the Laffer Curve, the relationship between how high tax rates go and the point at which people start changing their behaviour. Any twenty-first century attempt to ‘do a Denis Healey’ and squeeze the rich until the pips squeak is likely to be met by a mass exodus. Once the wealth creators take their talents and their treasure elsewhere, see how long the ‘many, not the few’ can last before following Denis to the IMF in search of the bail-out department.
Where did I put my copy of Atlas Shrugged?
Until next time.
P.S. Due to bandwidth constraints we will only be taking on two clients a month for the Elite Tax Planning service until further notice.