The revelation of top-secret documents hacked and spread to the media known as the ‘Paradise papers’ has put in doubt many a reputation of the rich and famous. Most notably for F1 fans this includes our latest Champion Lewis Hamilton.
The British driver, after securing his fourth title with the dominant Mercedes Benz team, said it would be ‘the greatest honour’ to receive a Knighthood from the Queen amid speculation one might be coming his way (much to the anguish of advocates of the late John Surtees). Alas it seems now that Lewis Hamilton has been removed from the Honours List.
Using a string of offshore companies with various leasing arrangements, the F1 champ worth in the region of £131 million* successfully, and legally, avoided paying tax on a private jet worth nearly £17 million. Perhaps a shrewd but not uncommon move for those who have plenty. The avoidance method required Lewis to initially lawfully pay the tax on the purchase but thanks to some offshore arrangements, the money was returned to him as a VAT refund once it had been registered in the Isle of Man according to the latest BBC articles.
It is alleged that Hamilton’s tax advisors and Appleby (Bermudian based law firm who had been hacked) assisted in setting up leasing businesses to secure multi-million £ VAT rebates.
The BBC has also claim that Apple, who happens to be the biggest company in the world, had been exploiting a similar tax loophole in the USA and Ireland allowing the channeling of monies from sales outside of the US jurisdiction. An astonishing 55% of it’s total revenue! Through the Irish subsidiaries which incurred lower tax rates, the firm was only paying between 2 and 5% instead of the Irish corporation tax rate of 12.5% or the USA’s 35%. So when the Irish government put a stop to the practice, Apple et al went elsewhere – namely Jersey, a UK island that makes it’s own tax law with 0% corporation tax for foreign business.
Now the truth is out in the open, it’s doubtful that reputations of those involved will recover to levels enjoyed previously. The likely outcome being that of tumbling share prices and lost Knighthoods.
Lewis Hamilton has often enjoyed the staunch support of the British public, many of whom subscribe to the brand. Plenty flock to his calls put on social media and rightfully so. He is our 4 time British Champion after all.
The question is, how many will still see him in that patriotic light next time he drapes himself in the Union Flag on the podium at Silverstone? There will of course been his devoted ‘Hamfosi’ who will justify his ‘rich getting richer’ actions but it’ll be a harder story to swallow next time he claims that he came from poor lowly beginnings, therefore relatable to the common person. Yes, that common tax paying person who also happens also to be picking up his multi-million £ VAT tab. Twitter had better watch out.
* The Sunday Times Rich List