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No Scandal But Plenty of Fun in British Political Tax Returns

London Mayor Boris Johnson's writing pays much more than his day job, while U.K. Chancellor George Osborne doesn't put his savings in the bank.

The immediate impact in Britain of the release of leaked papers from a Panamanian law firm is that leading politicians have been forced to release details of their income and tax. There’s been no scandal, but plenty of human interest. What have we learned?

David Cameron’s mother didn’t think his dad left him enough

According to a briefing from Cameron’s office to newspapers, she thought the 300,000 pounds ($430,000) Ian Cameron left the prime minister in his will was insufficient compared with what was given to his siblings, so she passed him a further 200,000 pounds. Unless she dies within seven years of making the gift, this money will be free of inheritance tax.

Tories pay a lot of tax

In 2014-15, David Cameron paid 75,898 pounds in tax. That’s more than Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s total income that year of 72,645 pounds. But that’s nothing compared with London Mayor Boris Johnson. On top of his mayoral salary of 143,911 pounds a year, he earned 266,667 pounds for his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph newspaper and 224,617 pounds in book royalties. Which means his 276,505-pound tax bill was bigger than Cameron’s total income of 200,307 pounds.

Cameron’s sitting on a lot of cash

The prime minister sold all his shareholdings when he took office in 2010, to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest. We don’t know how much cash he has in what’s described as a “U.K. high-street bank,” but even in these days of ultra-low interest rates, he received 3,052 pounds on it in 2014-15. The year before he received more than double that, benefiting from a high-interest account, according to his office. In 2009-10 and the following year, his annual interest income was less than 100 pounds.

George Osborne is making an awful lot in rent

The chancellor of the exchequer and his wife rented out their house in west London for more than 67,000 pounds in 2014-15. That’s about four times the average London rent of 17,000 pounds that year, according to HomeLet.

But not as much as Cameron

The Cameron home, also in west London, has been rented out since he moved his family to Downing Street in May 2010. The rent in 2014-15 was almost 94,000 pounds.

Osborne is making nothing in taxable interest

The austerity chancellor declared just 3 pounds in bank interest for 2014-15.

But quite a lot from wallpaper

He declared 44,647 pounds in dividend income last year, from his shares in Osborne & Little Group Ltd., the high-end wallpaper firm his father founded.

And Corbyn isn’t terribly organized

The opposition Labour Party leader spent much of Monday trying to locate a copy of his tax return. While Cameron, Osborne and Johnson issued breakdowns prepared by accountants with notes, Labour eventually released a photocopy of Corbyn’s submission to the tax agency, filled out by hand. It revealed that Corbyn had filed after the deadline, and had to pay a fine as a result. And he listed his one claimed expense in the wrong section, among additional income.

corbyn tax 2

Britain has a progressive tax system

The more you earn, the greater proportion of your earnings you pay in tax. All these men are among the country’s highest earners, but some earn a lot more than others, and paid a lot more tax. Corbyn, the lowest paid, gave the state about 27 percent of his total income in tax. Osborne paid 36 percent and Cameron 38 percent, but Johnson paid 45 percent of his total earnings in tax. For comparison, the average household in the U.K. pays 19 percent of its income in direct taxes, including some that aren’t included in these returns.

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