Sunday, November 29, 2009

Zac Goldsmith - not a fit and proper person to be an MP?

My morning was somewhat brightened up by the news that Zac Goldsmith has been outed as a 'non-domicile'. As an old friend of Susan Kramer's (she was our candidate in Dulwich & West Norwood when I was active there), anything that legitimately helps her to gain re-election in Richmond Park is a good thing.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceHowever, I see that Iain Dale has chosen to defend him on the grounds that what he is doing, using his non-domiciled status to avoid capital gains tax, inheritance tax and income tax, is perfectly legal. I therefore feel obliged to remind him that the public clearly don't see that kind of old-style thinking as acceptable any more. That might seem unfair and unjust but, as we know, the public view of politicians is fairly poisonous.

As for Zac, he is guilty of a degree of hypocrisy. Proposing a range of green taxes when you are actively avoiding paying what many would see as fair levels of taxation smacks of 'one rule for you, another for me'. It is true that he has told the Sunday Times that he will voluntarily give up his non-domiciled status, but it does seem odd that someone who is selected to fight a Parliamentary seat should consider himself to be non-domiciled.

To be automatically considered non-domiciled in the United Kingdom, you must fulfil the following criteria;
  • you must be born outside of the United Kingdom
  • your father must have been domiciled outside of the United Kingdom at the time of your birth
  • you must have come to the United Kingdom for the purposes only of employment (including self-employment) and must intend to resume employment abroad when that employment ceases
I presume that Zac meets the first two criteria. The third, however, is not so clearcut. What exactly is his employment status? Perhaps the Residence & Domicile Technical Team of HM Revenue & Customs might want to take a look?

I'm not of the view that David Cameron is obliged to sack Zac as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park. Of course, he may feel that a candidate whose behaviour brings his Party into disrepute might not be a fit and proper person to be a Member of Parliament. After all, if buying a duck house on expenses is an offence sufficient to cause the loss of a nomination, how relatively heinous is using your non-domicilied status to avoid potentially hundreds and thousands of pounds in tax?


Anonymous said...

All this nonsense. This man is a committed environmentalist, as well as a localist, who chose to fight Richmond Park as it was his home seat. I know that he made it into the final primary for the East Hampshire seat, one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Furthermore, he is a resident for tax purposes in the UK so any suggestions that he has 'dodged' any tax are defamatory and untrue. How many businesses and people play the tax system to their advantage? How many MPs have actually dodged tax. Goldsmith actually chooses to contribute to the nations fast declining coffers even though he is not required to. The people of Richmond should ignore this rubbish as it has nothing to do with his ability to be a great MP.

Mark Valladares said...

Dear Anonymous,

The very fact that non-domiciled status has been claimed indicates that he does not consider this country to be his home, and that he is sheltering assets from HM Revenue & Customs - entirely legitimate, yes, but not indicative of a commitment to this country.

And as for his commitment to localism, why apply to East Hampshire at all? And what does his status as a committed environmentalist have to do with his tax status?

If you're a friend of his, you're doing a pretty poor job in his defence...