Conservative Lord Ashcroft 'avoids' full UK tax bill
Lord Ashcroft's business empire is valued at £1.1bn
Lord Ashcroft has continued to avoid millions of pounds of tax despite promising to become a full UK taxpayer, the BBC has learned.
The Conservative peer transferred ownership of his main UK company, the Impellam Group, to a trust for the benefit of his children, Panorama has found.
Lord Ashcroft, who is set to resign as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, transferred his £17m stake in Impellam on 5 April.
The next day, on 6 April, a new law forced people sitting in the House of Lords to pay tax on their worldwide income and assets.
Tax lawyer Richard Frimston told Panorama that Lord Ashcroft would have faced a hefty inheritance tax bill under the new legislation if he had made the change one day later.
"If that had been done on the following day, assets worth say £17m going into trust would have been subject to tax at 20%, which would have created an immediate inheritance tax charge of something in the region of £3.4m.
"So that was avoided by doing it on 5 April as opposed to waiting until 6 April."
Confirmed status A month before the new law took effect, Lord Ashcroft had said in a statement that he agreed with the new tax rules for the House of Lords.
And in a televised interview on election night, he confirmed that he was becoming a full UK taxpayer.
The billionaire businessman has not broken any rules by using the family trust, but his actions appear to conflict with the coalition government's stance on tax avoidance.
Lord Ashcroft's tax status has long been controversial.
He was only allowed to take up his seat in the House of Lords in 2000 after agreeing to take up permanent residence in the UK and pay tax on his worldwide income.
At the time, the then opposition leader William Hague said Lord Ashcroft's decision would benefit the treasury tens of millions of pounds a year.
But 10 years later, Lord Ashcroft admitted that he had never become a permanent resident after all.
He had got officials to agree he could become a long term resident instead, which meant he did not have to pay tax on his income from abroad.
Panorama: Lord Ashcroft's Millions, BBC One, Monday, 27 September at 2030BST and then available in the UK on the [Only registered and activated users can see links. ].
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