HM Revenue and Customs has been accused of being “hostile to democracy” after hitting Leave campaign donors with huge tax bills, while the giant banking corporations which backed the Remain campaign are left unscathed.
The taxman has decided to levy inheritance tax bills ranging into six and seven figures on donors who gave money during the EU referendum, despite political contributions normally being exempt from such charges, the Telegraph reports.
While the newspaper knows of one Remain donor who has received a bill, demands are expected to fall disproportionately on Brexit backers, who were typically individual entrepreneurs rather than corporate entities.
Meanwhile, the powerful multinationals which served as the Remain campaign’s most prominent backers — including banking giants Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan — have suffered no penalty, as they are not subject to inheritance tax.
Brexiteers hit by the bills include Leave.EU co-founder and insurance tycoon Arron Banks, Midlands entrepreneur Lord Edmiston, and City of London heavyweight Peter Cruddas.
Brexit supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg MP — grassroots favourite to replace Theresa May as Tory leader — blasted the move as “fundamentally hostile to democracy” and demanded an urgent amendment to the legislation which allowed HMRC — chaired by a former special adviser to arch-europhile Ken Clarke — to levy the charges.
— LEAVE.EU (@LeaveEUOfficial) April 13, 2016
“Any money routed through the Establishment is tax-free and any money that challenges the Establishment is taxed — a double outrage because the Government spent taxpayers’ money advocating its own view and is now penalising people who had the audacity to challenge it,” noted Rees-Mogg.
“It is fundamentally hostile to democracy and the law should be changed urgently by amendment to the Finance Bill which is currently going through Parliament.”
“After the campaign all the Remainers got gongs and the Leavers got kicked in the arse,” said Banks, recalling the flood of knighthoods and honours former prime minister David Cameron handed out to Remainers and personal allies after his referendum defeat.
“It is lunacy. It is a political attack,” he added.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 1, 2016
Lord Edmiston told the Telegraph he felt HMRC was behaving in an “anti-democratic” fashion, disincentivising individuals from donating to political causes — and, consequently, increasing the future influence of the powerful corporate donors mentioned above.
“I just feel it is against democracy – if any time in the future there is an issue and someone is asked ‘would you mind supporting this particular position’, the Revenue are going to jump on your back,” he observed.
Peter Cruddas, whose family paid some £50 million in tax last year, was even more scathing: “There are very strict laws around donations, you have to be resident and on the electoral roll. So de facto we paid tax on that money [already].
“We put money up — and at the time we were taking on the Government that put up £9m of taxpayers’ money to present one side of the argument. What we did was to match that through leaflets to put the other side of the argument.
“I think we are being victimised. My accountant has never seen anything like it.”