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  • Writer's pictureJason Nisse

A Capital Idea

For those who have yet to see an article about Angela Rayner’s alleged avoidance of £1500 Capital Gains Tax on the sale of her council house nine years ago, you clearly haven’t been reading the Telegraph or Mail. The story stems from an “unauthorised biography” of the Labour Deputy Leader, “written” by Michael Ashcroft, the Conservative peer who hangs out in the tax efficient country of Belize.  

It has been seized upon by right wing commentators desperate to neutralise Rayner. Why? Apart from being a senior member of the Labour leadership team in an election year, the working class single mother who pulled herself up by her bootstraps is a clear point of difference in a opposition front bench dominated by bland middle-class school swots (Starmer, Reeves, Cooper). She is also – and I use this term advisedly – an effective “attack dog”, willing to make controversial assaults on Conservative policies, which quite often hit the mark.

If the tax scandal (and let’s remember former Tory chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, "carelessly" overlooked £5 million of tax on the sale of his company, while Conservative peer and funder Lord Bamford could owe up to £500 million in unpaid tax) dethrones the “Red Queen”, then Sir Keir might have to overcome his differences with Lisa Nandy as he in need of a chippy northerner to balance his very southern metropolitan looking top table.

Rayner, though, has not looked particularly shore footed in her defence. She says she did nothing wrong but won’t publish her legal advice (which makes everyone suspect it is a smoking gun). This has led to the row running way past the 11-day rule (which is supposedly attributed to Sir Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell).

I have this advice to nullify the row. Ask someone else to review the case – I’d bring in Dan Neidle, the former tax lawyer who runs the fiercely independent think tank Tax Policy Associates. Neidle has been critical of Rayner and one suspects he’ll say she should have paid the tax. Then she can say: “Sorry I was badly advised” and offer to pay the money. Even if HMRC cares – and all indications are that it has put this in the “too small to bother about” box – the worst that would happen is she’d get a fine and it will cost her no more than £5000. Not much to save a political career.

Others may disagree, but I don’t think it’s too late to redeem the situation. If Rayner doesn’t put a lid on it, the row will rumble on and there is likely to be only one outcome. Checkmate to Lord Ashcroft.

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