A kiss goodbye: Sir Richard Branson is off to the Caribbean – but not for tax reasons

Entrepreneur insists he can raise money for charity just as well from his private island

When Sir Richard Branson stood on a collection of man-made islands in the shape of the world off the coast of Dubai in 2006, and planted a British flag in the sand dressed in a flamboyant Union Flag suit, he said: “I stake my claim on England.”

Now it seems Britain’s best-known entrepreneur is quitting the country that has made him his fortune. The flamboyant businessman has moved permanently to the Caribbean island he bought in 1979 where he will continue his extensive charitable and philanthropic work.

Sir Richard’s spokesman confirmed that the entrepreneur had decided to live permanently on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), but denied that the decision was related to tax matters.

“He moved there more than seven years ago, but rather than retiring there, he spends 90 per cent of his time starting not-for-profit ventures and raising millions for charity through speeches and other charitable engagements,” the spokesman said.

He added: “Since he gives 100 per cent of any monies he earns from these to charity, it makes no difference for tax purposes whether he is in the UK or the BVI.”

Writing on his personal blog, Sir Richard insisted that he had moved to the Caribbean to help preserve his health: “There is no better place to stay active and I can kitesurf, surf, play tennis, swim, do Pilates and just play.”

However, as a non-resident of the UK, he could save significant tax on income from his Virgin empire, experts said on Sunday.

Critics of Sir Richard jumped on comments he made this year that Britain’s tax system was “reasonable” compared with France’s. Responding to the actor Ray Winstone’s claim that he could see himself leaving Britain because the country was being “raped” by high taxes, Sir Richard was quoted as saying: “I don’t think people should be leaving the UK because of our tax system. In the current economic climate it would be wrong if George Osborne was lowering taxes for the rich.”

A spokesman for UK Uncut, which campaigns against tax avoidance, said: “It would be great if ordinary people on a low wage could take these steps to free themselves from austerity, but they can’t – Branson is an incredibly wealthy man.”

Sir Richard’s empire was born when he set up Virgin Records in 1970 as a mail-order record retailer, and he has gone on to launch ventures in planes, trains, mobile phones and television. He has promised to give half his wealth, £3.5 billion according to the Sunday Times Rich List, to charity when he dies.

Sir Richard is far from the first British businessman to court tax controversy. The Topshop billionaire Sir Philip Green has repeatedly been forced to defend his tax record, after his Monaco-based wife was paid a £1.2bn dividend in 2005.

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 People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?