Lord Sugar faces call to clarify UK tax status after £160M dividend payment

Alan Sugar is under pressure to clarify his tax status in the UK after he took a leave of absence from the House of Lords and paid himself a £390m dividend.

The Financial Times are reporting that the British entrepreneur and star of the UK and Australian version of The Apprentice received the payment from his main holding company, Amshold Limited, in 2021, as part of financial arrangements over the past five years.

A person familiar with Sugar’s finances said the arrangements included plans for Sugar to give up his UK tax residency, however a spokesman for Sugar declined to respond when asked if the entrepreneur was still a resident of the UK for tax purposes, saying only that he paid UK taxes.

Non-UK residents do not have to pay taxes on dividends from UK companies, but can only live in the UK for around 90 days per year, or fewer depending on their ties to the UK.

They are also only taxed in Britain on income sourced in the UK, and not on income or capital gains generated anywhere else in the world. Usually they cannot actively serve as Members of Parliament or in the House of Lords, and must seek a leave of absence or step down.

Sugar was granted a leave of absence from the House of Lords in January.

The dividend paid in 2021 would have triggered liability for as much as £160m of dividend or income tax. The payout was one of the highest awarded to a British entrepreneur. Denise Coates, the founder of Bet365, received salary and dividends that totalled £469m in 2020, which made her one of the highest-earning corporate figures in the world.

Sugar’s spokesman told the Financial Times: “We are instructed to tell you that Lord Sugar is a UK taxpayer and will remain so. We have not asked you to write about our client, and as such we are not prepared to act as your editor. Please do not ask any further questions, as they will not be answered.”

Margaret Hodge MP, the chair of the parliamentary group on responsible tax, called on Sugar to clarify his tax status, adding: “Alan Sugar has a public role, both as a lawmaker and a business icon and mentor.”

Sugar has been outspoken on tax issues. He told Radio Times magazine in 2014: “You’ve got to pay tax, it is as simple as that. I don’t want to live a life dodging taxmen. I could have put my money in tax-avoidance schemes or hedge funds, but the only hedge fund I’ve ever invested in is a Black & Decker.”

One of Sugar’s companies, Amscruise Limited, which was registered in Malta in 2015, was included in the Paradise Papers, a 2017 data dump on offshore tax schemes. Sugar used the vehicle to buy his superyacht, the Lady A, for an undisclosed sum the same year.

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