The Out campaign – and the attitude to tax of its funders

If you click here you can see a link to the Electoral Commission list of donations to referendum participants arranged by size.

I have listed below the ten donors of the largest donations (ignoring the Electoral Commission), in descending order, to the ‘Out’ campaign and some material in the public domain that might cast light on the attitudes of those donors to tax and tax planning.

There is, of course, much other material in the public domain about those individuals – both positive and negative. It is my intention only to set out what is in the public domain that could reasonably be thought to cast light on their attitudes to tax and tax avoidance. Where I have given other information it is only by way of introduction to individuals about whom little else is known.

1. Peter Hargreaves gave £3.2m to Leave.EU Group Limited.

Here’s what the Daily Mail records him as saying about corporation tax.

I never understood why companies should pay tax. They don’t have a vote. If they didn’t have to pay tax, they would come here in droves and employ millions of people who would pay loads of tax.

This is consistent with other public statements that suggest he believes that lower taxes generate more tax receipts. He took steps to pay an increased dividend before the 50% tax rate came in.

2. Better for the Country Limited – otherwise known as Leave.EU – made a non-cash donation of £1.95m to Grassroots Out Limited. The Guardian has identified that Leave.EU was incorporated by STM Fidecs Nominees Limited, a company based in Gibraltar that “specialises in financial planning…. for high-net-worth individuals… re-locating to, other, frequently lower, tax jurisdictions.”

Its shares were then transferred to Arron Banks who remains, so far as the public record discloses, both a director and 100% shareholder. Arron Banks’ name has appeared in the so-called Panama Papers. The Guardian reports that he has set up “37 different companies using slight variants on his name.” That, you may think, is a tendency associated with a desire to reduce transparency.

The Guardian report also contains this paragraph.

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3. Diana Van Nievelt Price gave £1m in cash to Vote Leave Limited. Little is know of her.

4. International Motors Limited gave £600,000 in cash to Vote Leave Limited. “Lord Robert Norman Edmiston” is a director of International Motors Limited. The shares in that company are held by I.M. Group 1991 Limited, the shares in that company are held by I.M. Group Limited, and the shares in that company are held by “Robert Norman Edmiston”. Lord Edmiston is said by the Mirror to have had his first application for a peerage blocked by HMRC over a tax dispute. He is also reported to have received an “accelerated payment notice”. Accelerated payments notices are given by HMRC to those claimed by it to have used a “tax avoidance scheme”.

5. Patrick Barbour gave £500,000 in cash to Vote Leave Limited. Patrick Barbour was  until 10 April 2013 a trustee of the Politics and Economics Research Trust. I have written here about how over the last five years 79% of its grants have been made to the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance. And I have described PERT as “channelling money to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.” The Politics and Economics Research Trust is currently in discussions with the Charity Commission “about decision making and monitoring of grant funding.” I hope to write more on this after the Referendum. Patrick Barbour has also written papers for the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

6. Gladys Bramall gave £500,000 in cash to Vote Leave Limited. She is a former member of the BNP but little else is known about her.

7. Jeremy Hosking made two donations to Vote Leave Limited (£500,000) and Brexit Express (£480,000). He operates a hedge fund.

8. Peter Cruddas gave £350,000 in cash to Vote Leave Limited. Peter Cruddas is a one-time resident of the tax haven Monaco and former Co-Treasurer of the Conservative Party who resigned over the ‘cash for access’ scandal.

9. Terence Adams gave £300,000 in cash. He appears to have construction interests in the US.

10.= John Stuart Wheeler gave £250,000 to Vote Leave Limited. The Guardian has written of his £5m donation to the Conservative Party in 2000 which was followed shortly thereafter by Conservative MPs seeking to change the Finance Bill in a manner which would benefit the tax treatment of financial spread-betting, the industry in which Mr Wheeler then operated. Jonathan Wood also gave £250,000 to Vote Leave Limited. There is a Jonathan Wood, hedge fund manager, who has made substantial donations to the Conservative Party. The Evening Standard reports he has lived in Switzerland and Monaco – both might reasonably be described as tax havens.

For reference – and I imply no connection to the matters stated above – I have written here about some highly misleading tax related statements made by leading Vote.Leave figures such as Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith. I have written here about how leaving the EU will reduce the UK’s ability to combat tax avoidance.

For the sake of transparency, I should say that I will be voting Remain tomorrow.

 

5 thoughts on “The Out campaign – and the attitude to tax of its funders

  1. On my #plagueonbothyourhouses theme, do you remember the ‘marine salvage’ schemes? The first-mentioned person in this report http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/tax/9593444/Taxman-investigates-shipwreck-salvage-tax-break.html is listed by the Electoral Commission as a £750,000 donor to Remain, and is as much a ‘hedge-funder’ (if that is pejorative) as Jeremy Hosking in your list and as much a Conservative party donor (if that is pejorative) as Jonathan Wood. At a certain level of income and wealthiness one is hard-pressed to see much difference between people in attitudes to tax and tax planning. As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, the rich are different from the rest. One way though is which they do seem just the same as everyone else is that they some are for Remain and some for Leave, regardless both of their support for the Conservative party and for their attitude to tax and tax planning ….

  2. I’m not sure about that. The Telegraph’s description of the supposed tax wheeze doesn’t make much sense.

    If the money is really at risk then it’s reasonable enough that relief is available.

    If there’s no money at risk (and it just goes round in a circle) then it’s the kind of tax avoidance scheme HMRC would have fired advance payment notices at in a heartbeat – however as far as I’m aware they haven’t.

    Hence I’d conclude that this isn’t a scheme – just a high risk investment with a tax benefit.

  3. Very interesting Jolyon.

    I have to say that Gladys’ BNP history seems to make sense in the context of the nastiness we have seen from the Leave campaign.

    There are lots of different motives for leaving and staying it seems but the collection above is most telling about the Leave campaign which I find repugnant.

    Thank you.

  4. This is pretty weak. Branson is a tax exile and he supports Remain very vocally. Juncker was Prime Minister of a country a large part of whose raison d’être is aggressive tax avoidance and was especially so on his watch. Geldof and many other non-doms are very pro-Remain, as is the Guardian whose extensive use of the Cayman Islands seems to have escaped the notice of Charles Elphicke. And then of course there are the very curious tax affairs of Stephen Kinnock (still a Swiss resident?) and his wife; the inheritance tax avoidance of the Camerons and the Milibands; and the ultra-opaque goings-on of the Blairs. Besides, much of the success of Leave has been built on the argument that in its current form, the EU is a secretive oligarchy of power and wealth which enriches and empowers the 1% at the expense of the 99%. So the innuendo that Leave is run by and for tax avoiders is pretty flimsy.

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