Fact File: The Super-Rich

 

Forget the double-dip recession, ignore record unemployment, the rich are getting richer.

The combined wealth of the richest 1,000 people in the UK rose 4.7 per cent last year, surpassing a previous high set before the 2008 financial crisis. The result is a new global elite, living lives of luxury and privilege the rest of us can hardly fathom.

The UK’s capital has become a haven for the world’s super-rich, thanks to attractive tax laws for those who can establish an overseas "domicile". A trend towards tax cuts for high earners has also given the wealthy, wherever they reside, increased freedom to decide how their riches are allocated.

So what do they spend it on? Super-yachts, super-prime real estate, and large philanthropic donations (tax arrangements dependent).

In Numbers

£12.7bn – The estimated worth of Lakshmi Mittal, the UK’s richest man. Sources: The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times

4.7%  –  Rise in the combined wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK from 2011 to 2012. Sources: The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times

147m – The length of Topaz, the world’s largest super-yacht, as of January 2012. Source: The Financial Times

85%  –  Percentage of London super-prime estate (property worth over £10m) owned by overseas buyers. Source: The Independent

Further Reading

Secret Fears of the Super-Rich, Graeme Wood, the Atlantic, 2011

Is anyone benefiting from the wealth of the super-rich? BBC News, 2012

Even the super-rich should pay their taxes first, Mary Dejevsky, The Independent, 2012

The Charitable-Giving Divide, Judith Warner, The New York Times, 2010

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer, The New Economics Foundation, 2011

Cost of Living Extremely Well Index, Scott DeCarlo, Forbes, 2011

Timeline

1914 – The remittance rule, a hangover from Britain’s colonial past is extended to “non-domiciled residents”, allowing them to avoid paying tax on overseas income.

1990s – Privatisation of Russian industry creates a class of extremely wealthy “oligarchs”.

2010 – the US Supreme Court of Appeals creates “Super-Pacs” by ruling that Political Action Committees (PACs) could accept unlimited contribution from individuals, allowing the wealthy more direct political influence.

2012 – George Osborne slashes the 50 per cent tax rate for top earners to 45 per cent.

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