Rishi Sunak’s wife has been claiming ‘non-dom’ status, meaning she could save on her UK tax bill while living in Downing Street, it emerged last night.
Akshata Murthy, the daughter of an Indian billionaire, could have saved millions of pounds over several years through the arrangement.
She is registered as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes, a legal way to avoid paying taxes in Britain on overseas income.
A spokeswoman for the Chancellor’s wife said: ‘Akshata Murthy is a citizen of India, the country of her birth and parents’ home.
‘India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously.
‘So according to British law, Ms Murthy is treated as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes. She has always and will continue to pay UK taxes on all her UK income.’
Miss Murthy used the valuable tax status as recently as April 2020, two months after her husband was made Chancellor, the Independent reported. A source close to Mr Sunak said: ‘Neither of them has done anything wrong and she has complied fully with UK law. They have both followed the rules to the letter.
‘The Treasury has known about this all the time he has been there and when he became a junior minister in 2018, he went out of his way to provide extra disclosure to the Cabinet Office that was not strictly required.’
The revelation – on the day Mr Sunak hiked taxes for millions of workers – prompted Labour to claim it was ‘yet another example of the Tories thinking it is one rule for them – another for everyone else’.
The annual charge for gaining non-dom status in the UK ranges from £30,000 to £60,000 depending on how long a citizen has lived in the country.
It is understood that Miss Murthy has been living in the UK for nine years. The couple, who now have two daughters, met at university in California and were married in 2009.
Akshata Murty, who is believed to be worth hundreds of billions of pounds, held non-dom status. This means her permanent home is considered outside of the UK and, although she is still liable for UK tax on income made in this country, she does not have to pay UK tax on foreign income unless it is brought into the UK
It comes amid a cost of living squeeze in Britain, with Mr Sunak accused of failing to do enough to help struggling families
They lived abroad before Mr Sunak was elected MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire in 2015.
Mr Sunak is said to have declared his wife’s tax status when he became a minister in 2018 and the Treasury was also made aware so any potential conflicts could be managed.
The UK tax rate for dividends is just under 40 per cent for the highest earners, while the highest rate of income tax is 45 per cent.
This is higher than dividend rates for Indian companies, where they are taxed at between 10 and 20 per cent depending on resident status. Income tax in India is 30 per cent.
Details of Miss Murthy’s exact tax status are not yet known. It is understood she pays foreign taxes on her foreign income.
Last week, Mr Sunak hit back at ‘upsetting’ criticism of his wife and father-in-law over her family firm’s links to Russia.
He expressed his anger at media coverage of his wife’s shares in Indian IT giant Infosys, which was founded by her billionaire father Narayana.
The Chancellor joked that, unlike Will Smith at the Oscars, he ‘didn’t get up and slap anybody’. But he warned people not to ‘come at my wife’.
Infosys, an IT and consultancy firm, was criticised for continuing operations in Moscow before bowing to pressure last week and closing its Russian office.
Mr Sunak was widely criticised for failing to scrap the 1.25 percentage-point increase in national insurance in the Spring Statement, which came into force yesterday.
The Prime Minister yesterday admitted that households will have to make ‘tough choices’ as the cost-of-living crisis bites but defended the tax hike as ‘unquestionably the right thing’.
Shadow economic secretary to the Treasury Tulip Siddiq said last night: ‘The Chancellor has imposed tax hike after tax hike on the British people.
‘It is staggering that at the same time his family may have been benefiting from tax-reduction schemes. This is yet another example of the Tories thinking it is one rule for them, another for everyone else.
‘Rishi Sunak must now urgently explain how much he and his family have saved on their own tax bill at the same time he was putting taxes up for millions of working families and choosing to leave them £2,620-a-year worse off.’
Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murthy are listed as ‘Wykeham benefactors’ in the magazine of the school – where he was head boy
Ms Murty is listed on LinkedIn as being director of capital and private equity firm Catamaran Ventures, gym chain Digme Fitness, and gentlemen’s outfitters New and Lingwood.
She is also reported to hold a 0.91% stake in Infosys, which was founded by her now billionaire father.
Infosys is closing its Moscow office after facing pressure to end operations in the country amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tech giant Infoysys is one of India’s largest companies and has a presence in about 50 countries.
It set up an engineering centre in Moscow in 2016 where it is thought that up to 100 people were employed.
Despite many global IT firms suspending operations in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, Infosys had kept what it has described as a ‘small team’ there until now, according to the BBC.
But in a recent statement, the company had said: ‘We do not have any active business relationships with local Russian enterprises.’
Mr Sunak and his wife Ms Murthy had faced questions over her shares in the firm, founded by her father NR Narayana Murthy.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats had both called for Mr Sunak to answer questions over the issue.
In the Commons, a Labour shadow minister was forced to withdraw a claim that Mr Sunak was ‘hypocritical’ because of his family’s shares in the company.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘So far as the Chancellor’s wife is concerned, there’s just a fundamental principle, is their household benefiting from money made in Russia when the Government has put in place sanctions?’
Rishi Sunak’s net score has dipped six points over the past week as a poll laid bare the political damage from the cost-of-living crisis
It comes after it was revealed yesterday that Sunak and his wife gave more than £100,000 to top public school Winchester.
The Chancellor and Akshata Murthy are listed as ‘Wykeham benefactors’ in the magazine of the school – where he was head boy.
The magazine for the school – which has annual fees of £43,335 a year or £14,445 a term – includes the Sunaks in a list of people ‘whose total donations to Winchester College (including pledges) are greater than £100,000’.
Mr Sunak has been accused of failing to do enough to help struggling families in his Spring Statement a fortnight ago.
He was branded an ‘illusionist’ after hailing his ‘tax-cutting’ moves, despite the burden being on course to reach the highest level since the 1940s.
The government’s own watchdog has predicted that this year will see the biggest fall in disposable incomes since records began in the 1950s.
There are claims Mr Sunak is already having to draw up a new support package, as he struggles to keep a lid on the UK’s £2.3trillion debt mountain and rising interest payments.
He was also ridiculed for photo-ops after the mini-Budget, including posing putting fuel into a Kia Rio owned by a Sainsbury’s staff member.