Which super-rich Brits pay the most tax?

Sports retailer, betting mogul and inventor make up the top three UK taxpayers last year

A tax evasion protester in Trafalgar Square
(Image credit: Justin Tallis/FP/Getty Images)

A sports retailer, betting mogul and inventor make up the UK’s top three taxpayers, according to the Sunday Times inaugural taxpayer’s rich-list.

Based on business profits, share sales, dividends, house purchases and personal income, the paper estimates the owner of JD Sports, Stephen Rubin, paid £181.6m in taxes in 2017/18, which works out at nearly £500,000 a day.

The owners of Bet365 Denise, John and Peter Coates, are second on the list with a £156m tax bill.

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Sir James Dyson, who faced a backlash last week after it was announced his company would be moving its headquarters to Singapore, sits third with £127.8m.

“Remember, it is income that's taxed, not wealth,” says the BBC's Rob Young. “Perhaps that's why only 28 out of the 145 billionaires on the same newspaper's Rich List appear on the, admittedly much shorter, Tax List.”

Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of the Ineos group and the man who topped the Sunday Times rich list in 2018, was liable for £110.5m last year. Last year Ratcliffe, who like Dyson is a strong supporter of Brexit, announced he would be moving from the UK to tax-free Monaco.

“It’s hard to deny that the Panama Papers, Paradise Papers and other high-profile scandals have given the impression that none of Britain’s wealthy elite contribute a penny to our public finances,” says Robert Watts, who compiled the tax list.

However, he said the list showed the super-rich are contributing many millions of pounds a year in tax, adding: “These are large sums of money – the size that do not merely pay for a nurse, but pay to build the hospital in which they work.”

Sky News says the richest 1% in the UK contribute 28% of all income tax.

Nearly £2bn in tax was paid by the 50 people at the top of the Tax List, and Watts says the list “raises the question of how our country fills the gap if Brexit – or a more hostile political environment – encourages the super-rich to quit the UK for Monaco, Switzerland or other low-tax bolt holes.”

Other famous names in the top 50 include easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley and the Beckhams.

Citing their connection to finance firm Ingenious, The Guardian says it “has previously been reported the former Manchester United and England footballer was overlooked for a knighthood because of this investment, which has been subjected to scrutiny by HMRC”.

“There has long been the suspicion that the former England captain's involvement in investment schemes under attack by the taxman blew the whistle on Beckham's knighthood,” says Watts.

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