Zahawi facing questions about tax payment

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YouGov’s 2009 annual report said: “Balshore Investments Ltd is the family trust of Nadhim Zahawi, an executive director of YouGov PLC.”…reports Asian Lite News

Former Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has not denied a report he has agreed to pay millions of pounds in tax to settle a dispute with Revenue and Customs.

It comes after the Sun on Sunday claimed Mr Zahawi’s representatives would pay a “seven-figure sum” to HMRC.

HMRC said it would not comment on the affairs of individual taxpayers.

Labour says Zahawi, who now chairs the Conservative Party, has “serious questions” to answer about his tax affairs. The questions centre on whether Mr Zahawi tried to avoid paying tax by using an offshore company to hold shares in polling company YouGov.

The minister, who has a personal fortune estimated at up to £100m, co-founded YouGov in 2000, before he entered politics. At the time, his co-founder was given just over 40% of the shares in the company.

Unusually, Zahawi did not take any shares himself. However, a similar size shareholding was allocated to Balshore Investments Ltd, based in Gibraltar.

Dan Neidle, a Labour-supporting tax lawyer, who has looked into Zahawi’s affairs, last year described his decision not to take any YouGov shares himself as “surprising and unusual.” He questioned why the arrangement had been put in place.

YouGov’s 2009 annual report said: “Balshore Investments Ltd is the family trust of Nadhim Zahawi, an executive director of YouGov PLC.”

A representative for Zahawi said: “Neither he nor his direct family are beneficiaries of Balshore Investments or any trust associated with it. Zahawi has always said that he will answer any questions from HMRC, which he has always done.”

By 2018, YouGov had become a very successful business and Neidle says company accounts suggest Balshore Investments Ltd had sold shares it had held in the company for a total of up to £27m.

Neidle has estimated the tax due, if this had been liable to UK capital gains tax, would have been in the region of £3.7m. BBC asked Mr Zahawi’s spokesman whether any sum had been paid, or was planned to be paid, by Mr Zahawi, or a representative, to HMRC – but he declined to comment.

It also asked whether any such sum had been to settle a tax matter identified by HMRC and whether that had been in relation to YouGov but did not receive an answer.

Reacting to the reports about a payment to HMRC, Anneliese Dodds, who chairs the Labour Party, said: “If true, this is another nail in the coffin of the honesty, integrity and accountability promised by Rishi Sunak.

“Not for the first time, Rishi Sunak’s judgement has been called into serious question. The question remains is he strong enough to sack Nadhim Zahawi?”

Zahawi ignored reporters’ questions on his way in and out of a cabinet meeting, in Downing Street, on Tuesday morning. Asked if the public had a right to know if Zahawi had made a large payment to the tax authorities, his cabinet colleague Gillian Keegan said: “He is paying tax, so that’s the important thing. “His tax affairs are up to date,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

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