The astonishing story of Ken’s tax affairs continues to build, with further revelations in today’s Standard. After I revealed, on Sunday, that this great critic of “rich bastard” tax avoiders had avoided at least £50,000 in tax by channelling his earnings through a personal company (paying 21% corporation tax rather than 40% income tax), Ken said he would shut the company down if he became mayor.
It now turns out, however, that for about six years of his previous mayoralty, Ken had a similar arrangement. As I described on Monday, he channelled most of his (very large) income before his election in 2000 through a personal tax-shelter company, Localaction. What the Standard today reveals is that he did not shut down Localaction, and continued to process his non-mayoral-salary income through it, until 2006.
Ken insisted today that he had simply been “too busy” to wind down Localaction and that all the non-salary income he earned after becoming mayor had been donated to an (unspecified) charity “for the education of children who had had their fathers killed in India.” I’ve just asked his spokesman what charity that is and will update you when he responds.
The Standard has done a lead editorial today saying Ken’s behaviour “sits uncomfortably with his jibes about ‘rich bastards’ avoiding tax… Mr Livingstone’s public image does not quite square with minimising tax obligations.”
Ken’s tax avoidance also came up at Prime Minister’s Questions today. Asked by a London Tory MP about the issue, David Cameron said: “Whether it is Barclays Bank or, frankly, Ken Livingstone, people should pay the full amount of tax.
“I hope HMRC will look carefully at all these sorts of cases. Frankly, Londoners, many of whom live in Labour-controlled areas with high Labour council taxes, will be pretty angry about what they have seen. They will probably conclude Red Ken has been caught red-handed.”