London mayoral hopefuls Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone locked in tax row

 

A bitter row over candidates' tax affairs was centre stage once again in the fight to be London mayor today as rivals clashed over publication of details of their personal finances.

The move by both Tory incumbent Boris Johnson and Liberal Democrat hopeful Brian Paddick to meet a pledge of openness about income piled pressure on Labour's Ken Livingstone to follow suit.

But although he published some figures, the ex-mayor said he would only give full details of his earnings if others agreed to disclose information concerning spouses and partners.

Mr Livingstone, who is fighting to wrest back the job he lost in 2008, has come under fire for channelling earnings through a company so that they are liable for corporation not income tax.

Mr Johnson refused to apologise last night for calling his City hall predecessor a "f****** liar" during a bust up in a lift over on-air allegations that he operated a similar arrangement.

As fractious exchanges continued in a BBC2 Newsnight debate last night, Mr Livingstone said all candidates should be prepared to set out their earnings for a four year period.

"I'm happy to publish details of everything I've earned in the last four years. Are you going to do the same?" he said - and was met with an immediate "yes" from Mr Johnson.

The senior Conservative today published an accountant's letter showing he earned £1.7 million over the four years to April 2011 - and paid 40% in income tax and national insurance.

Ex-senior Scotland Yard officer Mr Paddick, whose income is mainly a £63,000 police pension, earned £344,146 in three years to that date and paid £100,693 in income tax.

On his campaign website, Mr Livingstone issued a table which showed he had paid £113,861 tax on £342,041 "total income" - £23,730 corporation tax on dividends from the company.

In 2007/8 he paid £44,142 income tax and nothing in corporation tax but by 2010/11 those figures switched to £22,691 in income tax and £11,970 in corporation tax.

A spokesman said he remained committed to "full disclosure" of how much income went into the company and how much his wife received from it - but only if others revealed more details.

"Full household income and tax must be released by all candidates because the question of the overall household income and tax has continuously been the subject," he said.

"This fully meets the terms agreed on Newsnight."

It was time to "put up or shut up", he said.

Mr Johnson said: "Last night every candidate gave an unequivocal promise on national TV to release all their earnings, whether through a company or not, and all the income tax they paid on all those earnings.

"I have done that today and I would expect, and am sure Londoners would also expect, all candidates to keep their promises.

"As I have always said in this election, Londoners should be able to trust their Mayor."

A spokesman for Mr Paddick said he was "very happy to be open and transparent about his income and tax returns as a registered sole trader.

"His figures show he has never attempted to use any complex arrangements to dodge paying anything less than full tax on his earnings."

PA

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