Taking Keira business: Does Ms Knightley really get by on £30,000 a year?


She won praise for her supposedly “frugal” wedding this month (if you forget about the couture dress and guests flying to France), and now Keira Knightley’s finances are back in the spotlight with the revelation that she earned “just” £30,000 in salary last year.

The star’s firm, Kck Boo Ltd, earned £1.5m, from her film and modelling work, but according to reports she paid herself only £11,000 in wages and £20,000 in dividends.

The actress and “face” of Chanel, like many BBC presenters, such as Fiona Bruce, has “incorporated” herself. This means money earned can be paid to a company rather than an individual, which can mean less tax is paid. National insurance contributions are reduced, a low wage is taken (ideally under the taxable threshold) and the rest of the money can then be taken by the company director as dividends, which are taxed differently to salary (this year, it’s possible to take around £30,000 tax-free). Business expenses can then be used to try  to offset some of the 20 per cent  corporation tax that companies have to pay.

While Knightley’s earnings are still not high by Hollywood standards, she is likely to be given free designer clothes and products. She is also worth an estimated £30m (according to last year’s Sunday Times Rich List), and so is likely to have a fair amount in savings, too.

She is not, however, the only high-profile figure to take a relatively low salary. This week, it was revealed that Gordon Brown earned £1.4m last year outside of politics, but he said all the money was given to charity or to finance his charity work, and he only kept his MP’s wage. Warren Buffett, the billionaire, is paid $100,000 a year by his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, both take a salary of $1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, refused to pick up his $124,000 annual salary as Governor of California, dismissing it as “petty cash”.