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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Anna Isaac

Sunak’s tax return: the questions that remain unanswered

Rishi Sunak publishing his tax return completes a pledge he made during the Conservative party leadership contest in 2022.
Rishi Sunak publishing his tax return completes a pledge he made during the Conservative party leadership contest in 2022. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, has published a summary of his UK and US taxes from 2019-2021.

It was meant to complete a pledge to publish it, made during his run for the Conservative party leadership last year. However, it leaves some major questions unresolved.

What is in Sunak’s blind management arrangement?

The tax statement confirms Sunak holds some of his financial interests in a blind management arrangement, as he has previously declared.

The income it generates is from “a single US-based investment fund”, the tax statement released on Wednesday said.

The makeup of the assets this arrangement holds has come under intense scrutiny as Sunak has been party to a range of highly market-sensitive discussions as chancellor and prime minister.

However, this tax statement offers no detail of the fund’s contents, such as whether or not the prime minister holds an interest in the Covid 19 vaccine-maker Moderna, which supplied the UK government. Sunak’s former employer, the hedge fund Theleme Partners, is known to have been a major investor in Moderna.

He has previously declined to say whether he holds or held shares in Moderna.

The tax statement suggests the fund manages money on behalf of other individuals, but we do not know who they are.

What are the terms of the blind management arrangement?

There is no legal definition of what such an arrangement consists of, and blind trusts or arrangements such as Sunak’s can differ in several ways.

The tax statement does not explain the detail of the arrangement that governs Sunak’s interest.

Blind management arrangements can run a spectrum: Sunak could have no involvement in any decisions about it at all, or he could be laying out a detailed strategy, suggesting sectors and classes of assets, even if not making day-to-day buy or sell decisions.

Whatever Sunak’s instructions might be, the former independent adviser on ministerial interests Sir Alex Allan said he was “satisfied with the arrangements”, as did the Cabinet Office. But the public is still in the dark.

What about offshore interests?

Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, who is wealthy in her own right thanks to a stake in her father’s software company, Infosys, have a range of financial interests in jurisdictions including the US, India and UK. Some of these interests have also been held in offshore locations, some of which are tax havens.

For instance, Theleme Partners, Sunak’s former hedge fund, is registered in the Cayman Islands. He was a founding partner of the firm, and one of the executives managing its US office.

He left Theleme in 2013, when he returned to the UK to launch his political career. It is unclear if he retained either interests in Theleme’s fund itself or some of the individual stocks that he bet on, or against, during his time at the firm. The tax statement sheds no light on this.

Will we ever see the returns in full?

Sunak held a US Green Card until October 2021. This was resigned after advice from the US authorities.

In order to sustain a Green Card, you have to file tax returns in the US, something that Sunak’s spokesperson has previously confirmed he did. However, this piece in the puzzle of Sunak’s financial interests has not been published in full.

All of the Green Card returns while he was an MP – the period from 2015 to 2021 – might offer some detail on any worldwide income, “including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts”, according to guidance from the US Internal Revenue Service.

Instead, the statement shows only the years 2019-2021.

Does this disclosure really follow precedents set by David Cameron and George Osborne?

The former prime minister David Cameron and former chancellor George Osborne both published some details of their tax affairs, effectively setting the precedent wthat informed Sunak’s financial disclosures, according to officials.

Osborne and Cameron also both made statements about foreign income.

Osborne’s noted that he “has no other sources of income or capital gains, from either the UK or overseas and has no offshore interests in shares or anything else”. Cameron’s statement detailed how he had sold shares in Blairmore, an offshore investment company managed by his father, and said he had “no other sources of taxable income or gains, either from the UK or overseas”.

Sunak’s statement, which is compiled by his accountants, differs slightly in its wording. They say: “We are not aware of any other taxable sources of income or capital gains from either the UK or overseas.”

It does not detail interests, only income and gains.

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