Tory donor Lord Ashcroft refused to answer questions about his offshore tax activity and hid in a toilet, when confronted by a Panorama journalist.
Newly leaked documents from the Paradise Papers have revealed the millionaire kept his non-dom status and continued to avoid paying tax despite Parliament’s efforts to make peers pay their full share.
The Conservative Party donor and peer was domiciled in Belize for tax purposes when it was widely believed he had given up his non-dom status to pay tax, the explosive papers have shown.
He refused to speak to the BBC’s Richard Bilton when quizzed at the Tory Party Conference about having tens of millions in the offshore Punta Gorda Trust.
Tory donor Lord Ashcroft refused to answer questions about his offshore tax activity and hid in a toilet, when confronted by a Panorama journalist
He led Mr Bilton through the conference hall, at one point holding his hand, repeatedly muttering ‘dear, oh dear, oh dear’ under his breath.
While most Britons have to pay tax on everything they earn, privileged non-doms are only taxed on the income they earn in the UK.
When questioned, Lord Ashcroft, who has donated millions to the Conservative party and is still hugely influential in British politics, refused to comment.
What are the Paradise Papers? Explosive documents reveal how the rich and powerful protect their wealth
The Paradise Papers are a collection of 13.4million documents that reveal a number of high profile figures, including the Queen and Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, linked to offshore tax havens.
The secret dossier was leaked by German news organisation Süddeutsche Zeitung, which revealed the equally explosive Panama Papers last year, that then called on the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to aide its probe.
The dossier has revealed how the figures and organisations use schemes involving trusts and shell companies to protect their fortunes from tax officials.
The majority of the data comes from Appleby, a leading legal firm based in Bermuda. Appleby helps companies set up in overseas countries that have low or non-existent tax rates.
However, while the firm leaked the information it refuses to name its source.
He denied any ‘impropriety or wrongdoing’ when asked questions about his non-dom status in 2010.
When Lord Ashcroft entered the House of Lords in 2000, Parliament tried to force the controversial peer to pay the full amount of British tax.
He promised to become a permanent resident in the UK, which would have meant giving up his status as a UK resident whose full-time domicile is out of the country.
William Hague, who was then leader of the Conservative Party at the time, told Parliament that Lord Ashcroft becoming a peer would ‘cost him [Lord Ashcroft] and benefit the Treasury tens of millions of pounds a year in tax’.
Yet Lord Ashcroft, who was ranked the 74th richest person in the UK by the Sunday Times Rich List 2015, managed to convince officials that he should be allowed to become a long term resident of the UK rather than becoming a permanent resident.
This slight distinction meant that Lord Ashcroft was able to retain his non-dom status in Belize, where he once served as the nation’s ambassador to the United Nations.
Between 2000 and 2010, he racked in payments of around £150m from his offshore trust in Bermuda – meaning he sat in the Lords as a non-dom, not paying tax on these payments.
Lord Ashcroft’s admission in 2010 that he was still a non-dom led to a major political controversy and the introduction of legislation designed to force anybody who sits in Parliament to pay full British tax.
After Lord Ashcroft told the BBC in May 2010 he was going to become ‘a fully taxed person in Britain’, it was widely reported he had given up his non-dom status.
The Conservative Party also gave such an indication on 7 July that same year.
He refused to speak to the BBC’s Richard Bilton when quizzed at the Tory Party Conference about having tens of millions in offshore account Punta Gorda Trust
He led Mr Bilton all the way through the conference, at one point holding his hand, repeatedly muttering ‘dear, oh dear, oh dear’ under his breath
However, documents seen by the BBC’s Panorama, reveal ‘his true domicile is Belize’.
The new law, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, had not specified that non-dom MPs and peers would have to give it up the status – only that they be ‘treated as domiciled in the UK’ by the tax authorities.
It meant Lord Ashcroft had to pay full British tax while he sat in Parliament, but as soon as he resigned from the House of Lords in March 2015 he was also a non-dom again in the eyes of UK revenue inspectors.