David Prosser: The Green family's tax planning makes Sir Philip the right man for the job


Outlook After the enduring and damaging ructions over the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative Party donor, one might have expected David Cameron to think twice before appointing a government adviser likely to prompt a similar row. It was brave of him, then, to ask Sir Philip Green to head a review looking for public spending cuts. The Prime Minister surely cannot have been surprised that his choice has caused some consternation – not least, it is increasingly clear, among Liberal Democrat MPs whose votes he may need in order to push the cuts through Parliament.

Sir Philip, it should be said, dismisses allegations that anything is amiss with his tax affairs. He pays tax in the UK – as does his retail empire – and his wife, Tina, who owns most of the business, avoids doing so only because she lives in Monaco. We do not know what tax she had to pay there on the £1.2bn dividend paid to her in 2005, but the bill in the UK would have been around £285m, which is what has irked critics of Sir Philip's appointment to the Government.

Given the scale of the figures, their concern is understandable, but it is nonetheless misplaced. What the Greens have done is no more than what the vast majority of us do: they have arranged their family finances so as to pay as little tax as possible while staying within the law. If transferring assets between husbands and wives in order to minimise tax is suddenly to count as "tax dodging", the courts are going to be very busy.

The scale of the savings the Greens may have made – or may not, since we don't actually have the full details of their affairs – is irrelevant. The only thing that would make Sir Philip an unsuitable nominee for this post, at least on the grounds of his tax status, is evidence that he has breached the law, of which there appears to be precisely none.

There may well be many people who think it should not be possible for Sir Philip and his wife to arrange their finances this way (though would those who have been so critical in the past of non-doms want to see someone living in Monaco opting to pay tax here rather than her country of residence?). The Lib Dems, among others, have long campaigned for a crackdown on tax avoidance – or, as that means in practice, more regulation to prevent people exploiting existing legislation.

That is their right – and now they are in government, the Lib Dems may be able to make some of the changes for which they have been pushing. In the meantime, however, it is not realistic to expect any taxpayer to pay more than they need to.

Indeed, were Sir Philip to have somehow contrived to ensure his family overpaid their taxes, we might wonder what he was doing in charge of a review of spending and waste that is presumably designed to ensure that the Treasury incurs no unnecessary costs. Now let's see what he can come up with to help the public purse.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'