George Osborne has released a summary of his tax return for last year showing he earned almost £200,000 by topping up his chancellor’s salary with rental income and dividends from his family’s wallpaper firm.
The chancellor was one of a string of senior politicians, including the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who rushed out information about their finances on Monday afternoon.
They had faced pressure to publish summaries of their tax affairs after David Cameron released information about his finances going back six years.
Osborne’s summary showed he made £44,647 in dividends from Osborne & Little, the wallpaper firm co-founded by his father, Sir Peter Osborne, both through direct ownership of shares and as a life tenant of a family trust whose assets are shares in that company.
Osborne received the windfall dividend payment despite the family firm having paid no corporation tax since 2008 because it has rolled over losses from previous years.
Osborne earned £33,562 by renting out his share in his west London family home – less than the sum made by Cameron for his north Kensington property of around £45,000 a year.
The chancellor’s total income was £198,738, putting him alongside the prime minister in the top rate of tax. Osborne’s tax bill was £72,210.
The chancellor said in 2012 he would not benefit from cutting the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p because he was not in the highest band of people earning more than £150,000 a year. But the dividend and rental income payments on top of his salary in 2014-15 meant he will have benefited from the tax cut last year.
No 10 made it clear it wanted the chancellor to release his tax return after Cameron’s official spokeswoman said on Monday that those in charge of the nation’s finances or seeking those offices should be transparent about their affairs.
Cameron will hope his own release and Osborne’s more limited move will draw a line under the furore about the tax paid by senior politicians, with other MPs protected from having to disclose their own income.
The prime minister took the unprecedented step after admitting last Thursday that he had owned £30,000 of shares in his late father Ian’s offshore firm Blairmore Holdings, which was named in the Panama Papers. As he faced pressure over Blairmore’s links to Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the heart of the leak, Cameron revealed the interest was sold in 2010 before he became prime minister, and made clear he had paid all UK taxes due.
However, some questions remain about whether Cameron sold any other offshore shares before he became prime minister in 2010 along with the £30,000 in Blairmore.
Also, Osborne may face scrutiny over why he has released only one year’s worth of information.
Johnson published four years of details showing his income in 2014-15 was three times that of Osborne and Cameron. He made more than £600,000 from his mayoral salary, book royalties and his Daily Telegraph column in that year. Over the four years covered by the statement he paid £916,481 of tax on income of £1.99m.
Other politicians also released their tax returns. Corbyn released a copy of his 2014-15 tax return. He had promised to publish the document last week but was delayed while he obtained a copy from HM Revenue & Customs.
It showed his salary as an MP was £70,795, on which he paid £18,912 in tax, and he made an additional £1,850 from work including lecturing. He was fined £100 by HMRC for filing the document a week late.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, released his tax details in January, showing he earned £61,575 and paid £14,253 in tax.
The SNP leader in Westminster, Angus Robertson, has said he will release his tax returns; Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, did so on Monday.
The only main party leader not to release any tax documents is Ukip’s Nigel Farage. When asked whether he would be doing so, Farage said: “That’s a big no.”
MPs are now under pressure to follow suit, despite Cameron recommending greater transparency only from those in or seeking the highest offices. A No 10 spokesperson said there would “naturally be a debate” about whether such a move would be appropriate, but the decision would be up to individual MPs.
Many are likely to reject the idea of opening up their finances to further scrutiny. Sir Alan Duncan, a Tory former minister, claimed in the House of Commons that parliament risked being “stuffed full of low-achievers” if MPs were compelled to reveal their tax affairs.
Duncan called on Cameron’s critics to end their “synthetic indignation” and admit they “hate anyone who has got a hint of wealth in them”.
He said: “May I support the prime minister in fending off those who are attacking him, particularly in thinking of this place, because if he doesn’t, we risk seeing a House of Commons which is stuffed full of low-achievers who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and know absolutely nothing about the outside world.”
Duncan’s remark provoked outrage among Labour MPs, with Liz Kendall, the former leadership contender, saying it was obnoxious and cretinous to suggest “you can only be a high achiever if you make a packet of money”.
Replying to Duncan, Cameron confirmed he would not expect MPs to reveal their tax affairs like the prime minister, chancellor, leader of the opposition and shadow chancellor.
“We have a system of members’ interests, which was put in place at the end of 13 years of a Labour government,” the prime minister said. “I think we should maintain that system.
“I don’t want us to discourage people who have had a successful career in business or anything else in coming into this house and making a contribution, and that’s why I’ve said I think for prime ministers and chancellors, shadow prime ministers and shadow chancellors it’s a different set of arrangements.”
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