Frances Ball 7 Mar 2019 03:41pm

A third of British billionaires live in tax havens

One in three British billionaires have moved to tax havens abroad over the past decade, legally avoiding some UK taxes

Out of a total of 93 British billionaires, 28 have moved or are in the process of moving to tax havens. Of those 28, half moved in the past 10 years, according to a report by The Times.

Around 12,000 UK businesses are controlled from low-tax jurisdictions.

Among those is Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the Ineos chemicals group and Britain’s wealthiest man, who is relocating to Monaco. Last month it was revealed that he was working with PwC on a legal tax avoidance plan to move between £1bn and £10bn offshore.

The Big Four firm, which advised the chemicals group on its tax structure, allegedly considered quitting its partnership with Ineos over the plans to move, but has since said it does not see reason to do so.

Despite its founder’s move, Ineos remains one of the highest-level corporation tax payers in the UK. In 2017, it paid at least £184.1m in UK tax.

Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice UK, said the news would “only deepen people’s feeling that there’s one rule for the wealthy and a different rule for the rest of us."

“The government should tighten up the rules that allow people to change where they’re based for tax purposes," he added.

Rebecca Gowland, head of inequality for Oxfam, agreed. "There's something seriously wrong with a system that allows a very wealthy few to dodge paying their fair share at a time when 14 million people are living in poverty in the UK,” she said.

“Tax avoidance hurts rich and poor countries alike and it’s the poorest who are hit hardest when governments don’t have the revenue they need to invest in vital services like schools and hospitals.

"Many British offshore territories and crown dependencies operate as tax havens – so the UK has an important role to play in ending tax secrecy, which would help to deter those who shift wealth offshore to avoid their tax responsibilities. The government should bring back a vote on tax transparency in crown dependencies like Jersey.”

A law was tabled in 2009 that would have prevented anyone who was non-resident in the UK for tax purposes from making large political donations, but it was never enacted.

Since then, individuals living in tax havens and their firms have made political donations worth a total of £5.5m, The Times said.

The EU is currently considering whether to include Bermuda, among several other places, on a tax haven blacklist in a move that would triple the number of jurisdictions on the list.

Last month the Foreign Affairs Select Committee announced that the publication of registers of beneficial ownership in British overseas territories – a requirement under The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act intended to improve tax transparency – would be pushed back from 2020 to 2023.