Who are Non-Doms, and what’s all the fuss about?

To mortgage advisers, not a lot; unless you're dealing with Russian Oligarchs or the mega-rich, it won't affect you. Except you're doing your CeMAP 1, of course.

Non-Doms have hit the press once again with Rishi Sunak, our beloved Chancellor of the Exchequer. His political stock has taken a battering because he didn't think his wife's non-dom status would ever be spotted by the press. The opposition is on it and has hammered her into submission as she has agreed to pay UK income tax on her dividend earnings.

Non-Doms are totally legal and legitimate. Intended initially to shield rich folk during the Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century. These rich folks had earnings and assets from abroad and didn't want them to be taxed here in the UK, so Non-Dom or non-domiciled status was created.

Anyone who lives permanently in the UK, and Akshata Murty lives at Number 11 Downing Street with her husband, can opt for non-dom status and safeguard foreign income and assets. However, they, or their father, must have been born abroad. They must also assert that they will return to their mother country one day.

Akshata happens to have a very wealthy father who set up an IT business in India called Infosys. She owns 1% of the shares worth £710million and receives around £11 million in dividends each year. She usually would pay dividend tax here in the UK. Since she is a Non-Dom, she is liable to pay this tax in India, where she holds her nationality. Likewise, the shares won't be hammered for IHT when she dies as she is a Non-Dom.

Rules changed in 2014, and you now can't be a Non-Dom if you've lived here 15 out of the last 20 years – you are then deemed UK Domicile. So, it tends to be people who genuinely will move home.

Some notably individuals who are/were Non-Doms are:

  • Antonio Osorio from Lloyds Bank fame
  • Mark Wilson from Aviva stock
  • Mark Carney, our ex-Bank of England chief and
  • Roman Abramovich, but he's in enough trouble now with his Russian connections.

Akshata is doing nothing wrong but feels she must protect her husband, who has a penchant for Boris' job. So, she has volunteered to pay almost £2 million in tax. The problem is that Rishi's carefully nurtured image has been tarnished. It doesn't help him that he wears Commons Project Trainers worth £325 a pair, and when asked about the price of a loaf of bread, he couldn't answer. Instead, remarked that they have several kinds of bread in their household and couldn't name the price.

The vast majority of the population find this incredulous; it'll be interesting to see where he goes from here, but Non-Doms are here to stay. Hooray for the Napoleonic Wars; that's where income tax started.

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