Sunak’s tax return showed he earned almost £4.8 million in just three years but analysis suggested he paid an effective tax rate in the UK of just 22 per cent.
The bulk of the Prime Minister’s multi-million-pound income came from capital gains, dividends and interest on a “single US-based investment fund”, held in a blind trust.
There was a time when the very existence of a blind trust was news in itself – the existence of Peter Mandelson’s blind trust when he was a minister in Tony Blair’s government was a row in itself in 2009.
But not any more. Theresa May had a blind trust to hold her stocks and shares when she was prime minister.
The fact Sunak earned over £4 million in three years in income alone suggests that Sunak’s total fortune run into many millions of pounds.
An accurate estimate is difficult. But Nimesh Shah, from tax firm Blick Rothenberg, says that assuming an average rate of income yield of between one per cent and four per cent on his blind trust, the portfolio could be somewhere between £4.3 million and £17.2 million, making him one of the richest prime ministers ever to hold office.
Labour is already trying to make some political capital out of both his wealth and the fact that he paid an effective tax rate of 22 per cent on it.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Rishi Sunak’s much-delayed return reveals a Tory tax system where the PM pays a far lower tax rate than working people – who face the highest tax burden in 70 years.”
Labour MP Beth Winter added: “For the wealthy to pay their fair share, we need to equalise capital gains tax rates with income tax.”
Does any of this matter? On my podcast this week, ConservativeHome’s Paul Goodman thinks that it will just entrench the views of his critics who believe his wealth means he is out of touch, while others won’t care.
He tells me: “It is interesting that… he is paying tax at that rate but I don’t really think it’s going to change the price of parsnips.”
And there is a risk for Labour that attacking Sunak’s wealth and privilege will paint the party as one which is against ambition and bettering yourself.
The publication of Sunak’s return under the cover of Boris Johnson’s testimony shows an increasing political touch in 10 Downing Street.
And the polls are starting to respond with a Savanta survey giving Labour a 14-point lead in the wake of last week’s Budget, which is an improvement on Labour’s baked-in lead of 20 points in recent weeks.
Sunak’s competent performance as PM contrasts favourably with the reminder of Boris Johnson’s chaotic time in office when he was grilled by MPs on the Privileges Committee yesterday.
And Sunak is yet to come out fighting politically. The PM could win support in the Red Wall by abolishing non-domiciled tax status which benefits the super-rich and has helped his family (his wife Akshata Murty is a non-dom who pays UK tax voluntarily on her global earnings). Or he could signal big tax cuts. Imagine how that might affect the polls.
Those bold gestures might have to wait until next year. But for now, Sunak is slowly but surely putting the Tory house in order – and getting the political credit. Increasingly the memory of Johnson as prime minister is receding in the rearview mirror.
Chopper’s Westminster Whispers
|Stand by for Boris’s resignation honours list!
Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list has cleared its final hurdle and is now ready to be published, I am told on good authority.
One friend tells me: “Boris just has to hit send.”
|More Brexit votes to come
Rishi Sunak is rightly relieved that his Windsor Framework Brexit agreement got through Parliament unscathed – even turning up to shake hands with Labour MPs in the Aye voting lobby.
This is not the end of it though. Wednesday’s vote was on the Stormont Brake aspect of the framework.
Between 10 and 20 more Brexit votes are planned in other areas including VAT to implement the Framework, sources say.
Brexit is not even nearly done yet.
|Nadine and Mrs Shannon will always love Dolly
Jim Shannon’s early day motion celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You has been signed by 34 MPs.
Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries says she will add her name to the motion and said: “I don’t sign EDMs but on this occasion, I’ll make an exception!”
I was touched that he has tabled the motion because the song means “so much to so many, including the wife of the honourable member for Strangford” (i.e. Shannon himself).