Rishi Sunak’s multi-millionaire wife claims non-domicile status, it has emerged, which allows her to save millions of pounds in tax on dividends collected from her family’s IT business empire.
Akshata Murthy, who receives about £11.5m in annual dividends from her stake in the Indian IT services company Infosys, declares non-dom status, a scheme that allows people to avoid tax on foreign earnings.
Murthy, the daughter of Infosys’s billionaire founder, owns a 0.93% stake in the tech firm worth approximately £690m. The company’s most recent accounts suggest that Murthy’s stake would have yielded her £11.6m in dividend payments in the last tax year.
Under UK tax laws, Murthy’s status as a non-dom would mean she would not have had to pay tax on the dividend payment from overseas companies. Infosys is headquartered in Bengaluru, India, and listed on the Indian and New York stock exchange. By contrast, UK resident taxpayers pay a 38.1% tax on dividend payouts.
A spokeswoman for Murthy said: “Akshata Murthy is a citizen of India, the country of her birth and parents’ home. India does not allow its citizens to hold the citizenship of another country simultaneously. So, according to British law, Ms Murthy is treated as non-domiciled for UK tax purposes. She has always and will continue to pay UK taxes on all her UK income.”
The Treasury declined to comment.
It comes a day after it was revealed that Sunak and Murthy donated more than £100,000 to the chancellor’s old private school, Winchester College.
It is understood that Sunak, the chancellor, declared his wife’s tax status to the Cabinet Office when he became a minister in 2018, and he had also made the Treasury “aware, so as to manage any potential conflicts”.
Tulip Siddiq, the shadow economic secretary to the treasury, said: “The chancellor has imposed tax hike after tax hike on the British people. It is staggering that – at the same time – his family may have been benefiting from tax reduction schemes. This is yet another example of the Tories thinking it is one rule for them, another for everyone else.
“Rishi Sunak must now urgently explain how much he and his family have saved on their own tax bill at the same time he was putting taxes up for millions of working families and choosing to leave them £2,620 a year worse off.”
Under current law, Murthy will automatically be deemed domiciled after living in the UK for 15 years. Murthy, who married Sunak in 2009, soon after they met while studying for a masters in business administration at Stanford University in Silicon Valley, moved to the UK in 2015.
The non-domicile status, first introduced under King George III in 1799, is legal and can be used to avoid paying UK tax on income from overseas rents and bank interest as well as foreign dividends. Non-doms can live in the UK all year round.
The revelation of Murthy’s tax status comes as Sunak’s popularity with voters plunges over his handling of the cost of living crisis. Sunak’s net favourability is down 24 points since just before his spring statement on 23 March, to minus 29, according to a YouGov survey.
It is the lowest ever favourability polling for the chancellor, and puts his support below that of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (minus 25) for the first time since he took office.
In his Spring Statement last month, Sunak raised the tax burden on UK taxpayers to its highest level since the 1940s, even as the population faces the biggest squeeze on living standards on record. The Resolution Foundation thinktank suggested Sunak’s package of measures would push 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children, into poverty.
Murthy had previously faced accusations that she was collecting “blood money” dividends from Infosys’s continued operation in Russia despite the invasion of Ukraine. Following mounting pressure, the company last week announced that it was “urgently” closing its office in Russia.
Sunak, who has repeatedly called on British companies to pull out of Russia in order to “inflict maximum economic pain” on Putin’s regime, had refused to comment on his wife’s 0.93% stake in Infosys.
Murthy, whose family business is estimated to be worth around £3.5bn, has used the valuable tax status as recently as April 2020 – two months after her husband was put in charge of setting taxes for the country, according to two people familiar with her financial arrangements.