Tax exile: the refuge of Britain's richest non-doms

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Indy Politics

The 1970s was the decade of big flares, oversized collars and lumpish motors. They also became the decade when "non-domiciled" meant what it said. To pay less tax, some of Britain's richest upped sticks for less fiscally demanding surroundings.

As Britain endured economic decline and a balance of payments crisis, the shadow Chancellor, Denis Healey, may never have actually promised to tax the rich until the "pips squeak" in 1972 but a year later he did guarantee there would be "howls of anguish".

The drummer Dave Clark, whose eponymous five-piece led the charge of the British musical invasion of 1960s America was first to flee. Others followed.

The revelation of the ruinous state of the Rolling Stones' finances in the early 1970s presaged not only a move to France but perhaps their finest work: Exile on Main Street.

Michael Caine spent eight years as a tax exile and the former James Bond, Roger Moore, opted for Monaco, a des res that continues to appeal to high earners, among them the fashion tycoon Sir Philip Green, the ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and racing drivers Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard.

Switzerland, tax haven of the drummer Phil Collins, remains an equally popular redoubt.

"People who are UK based have always been able to get out of tax by simply leaving the country. You will find pop stars and film stars throughout the system," explained Mike Warburton, the senior tax partner at Grant Thornton.

"But what reversed the so-called brain drain of the late Seventies was the arrival of the Thatcher government in 1979," he said.

Today, more than 10 years after the election of Tony Blair, tax paid on income and investment earnings is capped at 40 per cent, the non-doms have arrived in force and the City has surfed the stock market wave. But then Alistair Darling intervened. Forty years after Mr Healey, a 1970s debate about tax is reignited. Someone should ask DCI Gene Hunt for his views.