Rishi Sunak Tax Scandal Explained

Rishi Sunak is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the leader of the Conservative Party. Before that, Sunak served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary to the Treasury.

Sunak has been a member of the UK Parliament since 2015.

He is married to Akshata Murty, an Indian businesswoman based in Britain.

Akshata Murty was criticized for her non-domicile tax status, which allowed her to avoid paying taxes in the United Kingdom from money earned overseas.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak, Akshata Murty Net Worth

Rishi Sunak was a partner at two hedge funds before becoming a member of Parliament and it was reported that he was a “multimillionaire” by the time he was in his twenties.

Akshata Murty is the daughter of Narayana Murthy, who founded the firm Infosys. Forbes has estimated that Narayana Murthy has a net worth of $4.5 billion, much of which his daughter would inherit on his death. Narayana Murthy is estimated to be the 654th richest person in the world.

Akshata Murty also owns a 0.9% stake in Infosys, which is worth an estimated $791.5 million.

Murty’s Tax Status Allowed Her To Avoid Taxes

Sunak came under criticism in April 2022 when it was reported that his wife, Akshata Murty, avoided paying taxes in the United Kingdom.

Murty registered her tax status with the government as “non-domicile,” meaning she did not have to pay the same rate of taxes on her income from overseas as British citizens.

Murty’s tax status came to light because, as head of the Treasury, Sunak increased taxes on British citizens.

A spokesperson for Murty told The Independent newspaper, “India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously. So, according to British law, Ms Murty is treated as non-domiciled for U.K. tax purposes.”

Narayana Murthy
Narayana Murthy

Murty Earned Millions From Infosys

Murty’s father founded the technology company Infosys. She holds a 0.91% stake in the company.

For the 2020-21 fiscal year, Murty earned $13.8 million from her Infosys shares in dividends.

“Non-Domicile” Rule Is Over 200 Years Old

The “non-domicile” status has been a part of U.K. tax rules for over 200 years. The status allows people who aren’t permanent residents of the United Kingdom to not pay British taxes on income they have earned from overseas.

Under the status, it is still required that U.K. taxes be paid on income earned in Britain and for any overseas earnings that are brought into the country.

Keir Starmer - Labour Party Leader
Keir Starmer – Labour Party Leader

Murty Criticized Over Tax Status

The opposition Labour Party criticized Murty for her “non-domicile” tax status.

Keir Starmer, head of the Labour Party, said, “If it now transpires that his wife has used schemes to reduce her tax, while he’s been increasing taxes on working people, that’s breathtaking hypocrisy.”

In an interview with the BBC, Labour spokesperson Emily Thornberry said, “In the end, we have somebody who’s been living here for eight years, raising her children here, living … in accommodation provided by the taxpayer and aspiring to be the wife of the next prime minister, and yet she says that she isn’t a permanent resident of this country.”

“She’s of the 0.1% of the population who have positively chosen to say that although they’re living here, they’re not living here permanently, and taking advantage of that decision in order to not pay as much tax.”

Sunak Defended His Wife

After she was criticized over her tax status, Sunak defended his wife in an interview in The Sun, the conservative newspaper owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch.

“To smear my wife to get at me is awful,” Sunak complained to the outlet. “Every single penny that she earns in the U.K. she pays U.K. taxes on, of course she does. And every penny that she earns internationally, for example in India, she would pay the full taxes on that.”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Sunak also told the paper, “She has her own investments and is paying the taxes that she owes in the U.K.”

In an interview with the BBC, Sunak said, “It’s very upsetting and, I think, wrong for people to try and come at my wife, and you know, beyond that actually, with regard to my father-in-law, for whom I have nothing but enormous pride and admiration for everything that he’s achieved.”

Ethics Probe

Sunak requested a probe into his wife’s finances from Christopher Geidt, the U.K. adviser on minister’s interests.

Geidt released his report on April 27 2022. Geidt determined that Murty had not broken the law by using a “non-domicile” status.

His report also found two instances where Murty’s status “could have given rise to a conflict of interest,” but determined that Sunak had properly dealt with the possible conflict.

Murty Announces She Will Pay U.K. Taxes

In April 2022, Murty announced that she would change her tax status and going forward would pay U.K. taxes on income received from overseas.

Murty said in a statement that her previous arrangement was legal, but “It has become clear that many do not feel it is compatible with my husband’s role as chancellor.”

Murty chose to retain her Indian citizenship.

Liz Truss
Liz Truss

Fallout From Tax Investigation

The controversy over Murty’s tax status became an issue when Sunak became a candidate to replace outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April 2022.

The New York Times reported that Sunak’s future was “clouded by a swirl of revelations about his wealthy wife’s tax status.”

Ultimately the Conservative Party chose Liz Truss over Sunak to become Prime Minister.

But Truss’ term only lasted 44 days and then she resigned as Prime Minister on October 25 2022. Sunak was elected as head of the Conservative Party on October 24 2022 and became Prime Minister on October 25 2022.

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