Andy McSmith's Diary: Want to be a non-dom for tax? Just ask your dad


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Indy Politics

One of the more extraordinary revelations thrown up by the HSBC scandal is that a rich man who counts as non-domiciled under our tax system, and is therefore exempt from paying tax on money earned outside the UK, can hand this status down to his British-born children.

Thus Mark Lewisohn, a senior banker at UBS, who was born in London, educated at Cambridge, lives in Holland Park, and holds a British passport, is legally entitled to be a non-dom because his father, Oscar, a former non-executive director of HSBC Swiss branch, is Danish.

The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith could have been another beneficiary of this most generous rule, had he not chosen a political career. MPs are not allowed to be non-doms.

The number of non-doms almost doubled during the 10 years that Tony Blair was prime minister, but now Lord Myners, who was a treasury minister under Gordon Brown, has been asking questions.

“How many British citizens, born, raised and living in the UK, are claiming non-dom tax status because of a parent or grandparent who came from abroad, and how much tax is being lost to the treasury by this route?” he asked. Answer: the Treasury has absolutely no idea.

“Would the Treasury consider allowing people to inherit non-dom status from their mothers, instead of their fathers?” he also asked. Answer: certainly. If your father was not married to your mother, and your mother is non-dom, you can be non-dom too. But if they were married, you must look to your dad. It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Lib Dems and drugs

I am not sure that this tweet, from Greg Hands, the Tory deputy chief whip, is in the best possible taste – “LibDem drug legalisation policy is explained by the LibDems being on 5 per cent and UK users of illegal drugs being on 8 per cent” – but it is quite funny.

Woolfe spooks Farage

Only hours after Nigel Farage announced that it was Ukip policy not to allow people with “life-threatening illnesses” to immigrate into the UK, the party’s immigration spokesman, Steven Woolfe, said that, on the contrary, the party would not turn away the fatally ill. Woolfe’s career as a leading figure in Ukip got off to an unusual start in 2010. He was not a member of Ukip, though he had spoken at a Ukip conference. He was at home, watching Spooks on television, when the phone rang. It was Nigel Farage inviting him to be Ukip’s spokesman on financial affairs. If they continue contradicting each other publicly, Farage may soon wish that he watched Spooks too instead of making that call.

Watford, the promised land

According to a job advertisement from Watford borough council, “as Communications and Engagement Section Head, you will be responsible for leading a talented team to the promised land”. Having been brought up in Hertfordshire, I wouldn’t demand the promised land: just getting out of Watford would do for me.

Browne finds the exit

An odd incident in the life of the high-flying Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne was when he was caught on Google street map on Praed Street, in London, with his ministerial red box and then disappearing, as if he had gone into the Paddington Hotel. The images were posted on the Guido Fawkes website, which wondered why he appeared to be popping into a hotel in the middle of the day. Browne said he wasn’t, and anyway it wouldn’t matter if he was. The map has recently been updated, so it is all in the past. Sadly, so is his brilliant political career. He is leaving the Commons in May.