Conservative Lord Ashcroft 'avoids' full UK tax bill
Lord Ashcroft has continued to avoid millions of pounds of tax despite promising to become a full UK taxpayer, the BBC has learned.
The Conservative peer transferred ownership of his main UK company, the Impellam Group, to a trust for the benefit of his children, Panorama has found.
Lord Ashcroft, who is set to resign as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, transferred his £17m stake in Impellam on 5 April.
The next day, on 6 April, a new law forced people sitting in the House of Lords to pay tax on their worldwide income and assets.
Tax lawyer Richard Frimston told Panorama that Lord Ashcroft would have faced a hefty inheritance tax bill under the new legislation if he had made the change one day later.
"If that had been done on the following day, assets worth say £17m going into trust would have been subject to tax at 20%, which would have created an immediate inheritance tax charge of something in the region of £3.4m.
"So that was avoided by doing it on 5 April as opposed to waiting until 6 April."
It goes without saying that Lord Ashcroft has done nothing of the sort. At the time that he made the transfer he was outside the scope of UK tax just like most of the 6 billion people on the planet, and free to arrange his affairs as he sees fit. The BBC might just as well accuse all the other non-resident billionaires of avoiding UK tax by not being resident in the UK, or even of avoiding UK inheritance tax by not dying. Normally the BBC would not dream of investigating or commenting on the tax affairs of an individual, particularly if they were quite in order. But if it involves a person connected, or in Lord Ashcroft's case, formerly connected, with the Conservative Party, any smear is good.