So, you’re a public figure and as such are asked to do interviews, make personal appearances, write columns and the like. Nice work if you can get it, and certainly a nice little earner. Of course an outspoken socialist whose lips spit invective against “rich bastards” would welcome the opportunity to pay extra tax on this windfall.
But perhaps not if that outspoken socialist happens to be Ken Livingstone. The Evening Standard reveals that to avoid paying tax on such earnings, Ken Livingstone turned himself into a corporation. His earnings from speeches and media appearances are paid not to him personally, but to his ‘company’, Silveta Limited.
Now, as someone who makes the distinction between tax evasion (contemptible and criminal) and tax avoidance (perfectly sensible and entirely legal) I have no issue with Ken Livingstone avoiding having to write out a bigger cheque than necessary to HM Revenue & Customs. Inland Revenue produce tax legislation which is designed to prevent abuses. Indeed, tax policy is produced on the basis that people will engage in lawful tax structuring: both in relation to businesses and personal income. So, why not rather make yourself the director of a company and split the dividends with your de facto spouse rather than pushing yourself into a higher personal tax bracket? It is your money after all.
But it is rather irksome that a person who does structure his income like a sly accountant and who makes almost a quarter of a million pounds annually from waffle can’t avoid terms like “rich bastards” when talking about other high-earners who, similarly, avoid paying more tax than they have to.