Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lord Ashcroft reveals: I am a non-dom.

David Cameron has been having an awful week, but it just got considerably worse.

Lord Ashcroft, the multimillionaire deputy chairman of the Conservative party, has ended ten years of silence - despite constant Labour and Lib Dem probing - to admit that he is a "non-dom" and does not pay tax on earnings he makes outside of the UK.

Ashcroft made a statement on his website (pdf) in anticipation of the release under the Freedom of Information Act today of the promise he made to the government when he was made a peer in 2000 to "take up permanent residence in the UK again".

He said: "In subsequent dialogue with the government, it was officially confirmed that the interpretation in the first undertaking of the words 'permanent residence' was to be that of 'a long-term resident' of the UK. I agreed to this and finally took up my seat in the House of Lords in October 2000. Throughout the last 10 years, I have been declaring all my UK income to HM Revenue.

"My precise tax status therefore is that of a 'non-dom'. Two of Labour's biggest donors – Lord Paul (recently made a privy counsellor by the prime minister) and Sir Ronald Cohen, both long-term residents of the UK – are also 'non-doms'."

I heard one Tory MP today make the claim that Lord Paul gives a larger percentage of his income to the Labour party than Lord Ashcroft gives to the Tories. But that is disingenuous in the extreme. In fact, it says more about Ashcroft's astronomical wealth than it does about anything else.

Ashcroft is bankrolling the Tory campaign against Labour and Lib Dem marginal seats; and he could be said to be doing so with the money that he is choosing not to pay in UK taxation.

During the election campaign in the US, I was often tempted to donate money to Obama's campaign and was always slightly miffed when his website made it clear that only US residents could contribute.

But when I thought about it, it made prefect sense. Although the US presidency affects every person on the planet, I don't pay US taxes, so why the Hell should I be allowed any say in the choosing of the US president?

And that same rule should apply to Ashcroft; and Lord Paul and Sir Ronald Cohen if it comes to that, although I note that neither of them are Deputy Chairman of the Labour party.

If you want to contribute to the political process of this country then you should be resident here and pay all of your taxes here.

And why has it taken the Tories TEN YEARS to come clean on this?

Gordon Prentice, the Labour MP who put the FoI request in to the Cabinet Office, said: "This is absolutely explosive. He says that he has been declaring all his UK income to HM Revenue; he's not declaring his worldwide income; he's worth £850m. He should resign from House of Lords immediately."

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer who has campaigned for a change in the law to prevent non-doms sitting in parliament, said: "Ashcroft has been sitting for the last 10 years in the British parliament, he has been voting on British laws and British public spending when he has not been paying full British tax like the other 60 million of us. That's a democratic disgrace."

"He has been pouring millions into Conservative campaigning when he is not paying full British tax. So you have someone who keeps his assets offshore out of the British tax system and trying to buy a British election.

"This makes it essential there is no further delay in the ruling from the Electoral Commission. Now that we know Lord Ashcroft is a non-dom the Electoral Commission must rule on whether his donations are impermissible."

Cameron was at his most spectacularly weak when he attempted to fend this one off.
"He's a non-dom. Those are people who live in the UK and pay tax in the UK but have that non-dom status, like, for instance, Lord Paul, one of Labour's biggest donors, who the prime minister recently made a privy counsellor, one of the highest offices in the land. I'm glad it's cleared up. Now we can get on with the election campaign.
Yeah, that's going to be enough. Why didn't he just come out and say, "Nothing to see here folks, just keep moving."
"I think you have to respect people's privacy and you have to respect the view that someone's tax status is a matter between them and the Revenue, but I'm delighted Lord Ashcroft has come out and said, 'You want to know the undertakings I gave; here they are. You want to know my tax status; here is is.'
Except it took ten years and a Freedom of Information Act ruling for this to become public.
The long-demanded disclosure comes after a freedom of information watchdog ruled there was a "legitimate interest" for the public to know Lord Ashcroft's tax status.
Cameron is stating that Ashcroft's attitude - and that of the Tory party - is best summed up with, "You want to know my tax status; here is is."

After TEN YEARS of Tory obfuscation on this subject, that's simply not credible.

Related Articles:

Tory party has been bought like a 'banana republic', says Huhne.
When he was awarded a peerage, 10 years ago, Lord Ashcroft gave a "clear and unequivocal assurance" that he would become a permanent UK resident. William Hague, the former Tory leader who nominated Lord Ashcroft for a peerage, hailed that assurance as being worth "tens of millions" to the British Treasury, as the peer started paying UK taxes on his vast wealth.

But Lord Ashcroft has now disclosed that under a deal he brokered with the tax authorities he became a "long-term resident" of the UK, without being "domiciled" here. The distinction meant that he did not need to pay tax on the bulk of his fortune, which was made abroad, provided that he did not bring it into the country.
Click here for full article.

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