Head of Bet365 gambling firm Denise Coates tops list of UK’s biggest taxpayers

Denise Coates, head of gambling empire Bet365, was Britain’s biggest taxpayer last year, according to the Sunday Times Tax List.

The Coates family paid an estimated £481.7m, topping the annual ranking of billionaires’ tax payments for the third consecutive year. While the family’s tax payment was down from £573m in 2020, it was still almost £200m more that paid by hedge fund manager Chris Rokos in second-place with a £300m payment to the exchequer.

The total tax paid by the top 50 taxpayers rose by £510m to £3.7bn up from £3.2bn the previous year. The minimum amount of tax paid needed to make the top 50 rose to £15.2m, up 16% on the previous year.

“This is a stronger Tax List than last year’s – which will be good news for the chancellor,” Robert Watts, compiler of the list, said. “The total take is up by more than £500m”

However, the IPPR thinktank, which is campaigning for a wealth tax, said the list provides “an insight into the UK’s broken tax system” which allows “the richest people in the country to pay little to no tax at all”.

“Only one name from the top 10 of last year’s [Sunday Times] Rich List appear among those thought to be the top 10 taxpayers,” George Dibb, head of the IPPR’s centre for economic justice, said. “Our tax system, which supports the NHS and welfare safety net, should ensure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the biggest burden. But today it’s just too easy for some of the richest people in the country to pay little to no tax at all.

Dibb pointed out that of the top 10 richest people in the UK, only the Weston family (the 10th richest with £11bn) appear on the tax list. The richest person in the UK according to the Sunday Times’ rich list is Sir Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born businessman who made his money from energy and aluminium groups in the former Soviet Union, with an estimated £23bn fortune. He is not included in the tax list.

Coates, 54, who paid herself £421m last year, has built up an estimated £8.4bn fortune from Bet365 making her the 17th richest person in the country. Her pay since 2016 totals almost £1.3bn.

Rokos, 51, who runs $13bn hedge fund Rokos Capital Management, paid £300m in tax after he collected £509m in pay from the hedge fund that made almost £1bn in profit from bets placed during the pandemic. The fund made £914m in profit in the year to 31 March 2021 according to filings at Companies House.

Stephen Rubin, 84, whose family is behind the JD Sports high street chain and sportswear brands Speedo, Berghaus and Kickers, paid £256m. Behind him, the Weston family, which owns Fortnum & Masons and recently sold Selfridges for £4bn, paid £175.4m.

Rounding out the top five are Fred and Peter Done, who paid about £170m in tax from their gambling business Betfred. More than £100m of that tax take is made up of specific gambling taxes including betting duty (£55.1m), machine gaming duty (£38.1m) and the statutory betting levy (£8.4m).

The most notable of the 10 new entries in this year’s list is Lord Sugar. The Apprentice host ranks sixth this year off the back of his £163.4m tax bill, largely made up of a £148.6m dividend tax exposure that followed his £390m dividend payment from his Amshold Ltd property business.

JK Rowling paid £36m in tax, bringing to £119.4m the amount she has paid in tax over the past three years. Rowling has said she makes a conscious decision to pay full taxes in the UK, refusing to live in “the limbo of some tax haven” and criticising “greedy tax exiles”.

Rowling, who received single mother benefits when she was writing the first Harry Potter book, has previously spoken of the debt she felt she owed to the welfare state.

“When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net, threadbare though it had become, was there to break the fall,” she said. “It would have been contemptible to scarper to the West Indies at the first sniff of a seven-figure royalty cheque.”

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