Is UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak considering resigning over wife's tax row?

Rishi Sunak, Akshata Murthy
Rishi Sunak with wife Akshata Murthy.

London: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has moved his belongings out of Downing Street, as he desperately clung on to his post, a media report said on Sunday.

Removal vans were seen lining up to take furniture and personal items from the flat shared by Sunak and wife Akshata Murthy and move them to their newly-refurbished, luxury West London pad, said the Sunday Mirror report.

But the Sunday Mirror said the move was planned before Sunak's popularity nosedived this week.

The family are making the move because their eldest daughter is about to go into her final term of primary school, the report added.

They want to be nearer to her school for the last few months before she goes to boarding school.

Previously a shoo-in to replace Boris Johnson as the next Prime Minister, Sunak's fortunes have been on the wane since last month's disastrous Spring Statement failed to provide help for families facing a cost of living crisis.

This week it was revealed Murthy enjoyed non-dom tax status and Sunak had held on to his Green Card as a 'resident' of the US for more than a year after becoming Chancellor.

It comes amid calls for partners and spouses of ministers to be banned from being non-doms and avoiding paying tax on money made outside the UK.

The opposition Labour Party said Sunak and his family potentially saved tens of millions of pounds in taxes through his wife's non-dom status.

The taxman has been urged to investigate whether UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak's wife Akshata Murty broke the terms of her non-dom status by giving her company 4.3 million pounds in interest-free loans, a media report said.

Tax experts said the personal loans to Murty's venture capital firm, Catamaran Ventures UK, fall into a 'grey area' of the rules and last night called for HM Revenue & Customs to investigate, the Daily Mail report said.

The loans could "circumvent" the basis of her non-dom status if they were found to give her "monetary or non-monetary returns", whether through profits or by exerting influence, it was claimed.

Individuals can give loans to British companies tax-free even if the money comes from earnings abroad that have not been required to pay UK taxes.

Accountants said they can be a way for non-doms to bring money into Britain without having to pay tax on it, Daily Mail reported.

Murty declined to answer questions about the loans, the bulk of which were given in 2019 and 2020.

A spokesman for Sunak's wife said she had "followed the letter of the law and complied with all rules in her arrangements".

On Friday, Murty agreed to pay UK tax on her global fortune in a bid to save her husband's political career.

In a dramatic U-turn, the Indian heiress said she would no longer apply to pay tax on a "remittance basis", which allows non-doms to avoid UK tax on foreign earnings in return for a 30,000 pounds annual fee.

Sunak is now demanding a Whitehall inquiry to find out who leaked details about his wife Akshata Murty's tax arrangements.

Downing Street has rejected newspaper reports that its staff leaked damaging stories about Sunak to the media.

His allies say very few people had access to the personal information, which Sunak declared to Whitehall officials when he became a minister in 2018, the BBC reported.

Some Conservative MPs say he was naive to think the details would remain private, and that he should have predicted that the tax arrangements would be criticised as inappropriate, despite being legal.

Sunak's team has dismissed suggestions of a rift with Downing Street and say the prime minister has been "incredibly supportive".

The Chancellor's brand, vigorously promoted since he came to office, has been damaged, with some members of the ruling Conservative Party questioning his judgement.

Opposition MPs have said Sunak's family is benefiting at a time when he is putting up taxes for millions of others, the BBC reported.

Opposition Labour Party MP Louise Haigh said: "I think the question many people will be asking is whether it was ethical and whether it was right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whilst piling on 15 separate tax rises to the British public, was benefiting from a tax scheme that allowed his household to pay significantly less to the tune of potentially tens of millions of pounds."

(With inputs from agencies)

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