"Bachchoo, last night you dreamt of crows
They don’t belong in verses
They are creatures of prose:
As the sun went down they took flight
Their cries to me were croaking curses
In thick flocks they formed the night
Then implausibly they turned
And were harnessed to black hearses."
From Gul Pey Laath, Tamboo Mey Ghubraaht, by Bachchoo
I have to admit that I am a bit of a "dom". That’s not to claim any fraction of the talent or achievement of the poet, the late Dom Moraes. Neither is it a claim to any part of the weirdo Dominic Cummings, late adviser to BoJo, who was ejected from 10 Downing Street after some contretemps with Carrie Antoinette, the PM’s new wife.
No, dear hearts, I am compelled to declare myself a "dom" because recently I received a reminder from Her Majesty’s Revenue Service asking me to fill in my tax returns for the previous year. I haven’t done it yet, but have discovered, from reading the headlines and following the latest issues on TV, that there exists a perfectly legal way of evading tax on one’s income from abroad by declaring that one is a "non-dom" -- not domiciled. On further enquiry I am told that this is a status afforded to those who say they might live in the UK, but their primary place of residence is elsewhere. In this way they can avoid -- again perfectly legally -- paying tax on anything that they earn by writing a column for newspapers in, say, India.
It now emerges in the British press that the finance minister of the UK, otherwise known as the chancellor of the exchequer, currently one Hedgie Sunak, has the ultimate responsibility of determining the tax laws that apply to these "non-doms". Under the laws that he oversees, these non-doms pay no taxes on what they declare is their income from overseas.
Now, gentle reader, I publish books through vibrant Indian publishing firms and that gives me sometimes a few rupees. I also earn some very generous fee for this weekly column, paid as Indian earnings. I have to declare these meagre (No, no, editor sahab, I mean ‘fantastic, fabulous’ fees --fd. Rein in your nonsense, ungrateful dog --Ed) earnings and be taxed on them because I am a "dom".
The "non-dom" who has been in the news -- and who has in part occasioned this column – is one Akshata Murthy. She can also be known as Akshata Sunak as she is married to Hedgie, the UK’s intrepid chancellor. The news about her "non-dom" status was that she had an income from shares worth £700 million in her father N.R. Narayana Murthy’s company Infosys.
These shares brought her a yearly income, this last year at least, of £11.5 million. If this was taxed at the rate which her husband has set, she would have to pay around £4.4 million to Her Majesty’s exchequer. She didn’t. Not until the news of her registration as a "non-dom" hit the headlines and even then, through clever maths accounting, not that much.
It’s clear that Ms Murthy intended, quite shamelessly but perfectly legally under her husband’s dispensation, to keep this status quiet and pay no tax on this chunk of her income at all.
Obviously, the scam of her "non-dom" status wouldn’t have been the subject of Himalayan embarrassment if she had been plain Mrs Botany B. Being the chancellor’s wife caused the embarrassing facts to scale the heights of Everest.
Hedgie, in charge of taxes, ignored the income that the exchequer could have received if he had abolished or modified the "non-dom" status law. Instead, his last Budget has raised the level of taxation for the average "dom" (yours truly included) by 11 per cent. Are the voters pleased?
To be fair, Ms Murthy, pressured by the exposure, announced that she would pay some tax on her foreign income to avoid the impression that she and her husband were conniving, shameless (though perfectly legal under his jurisdiction) billionaires.
There’s more, gentle reader. In all the years of Covid, Hedgie launched a popular "furlough" scheme to help businesses pay their employees during the lockdown. The scheme certainly assisted small businesses who had to lay off their workers.
Ms Murthy owns a share in Digme Fitness, a company that runs gyms in London and Oxford. She has, reputedly, more money than the Queen. But, of course, she took advantage of Hedgie’s furlough and claimed and received £100,000 from the relief fund.
Hedgie’s money comes from the super-gambling enterprise of hedge funds. Akshata’s wealth is from dividends in shares. Neither of which can legitimately be called "earnings" if that’s a word applied to the product of blood, sweat and even tears. You don’t get that rich by working hard, you get that rich by gaming the capitalist system and by making other people work hard.
There’s still more. Poor Hedgie’s popularity with the public is now at an all-time low as inflation hits seven per cent and taxes and the price of fuel are the highest since the late 1990s.
And apart from the revelation that till recently, even as a candidate for Parliament, Hedgie kept a US Green Card, there is "Partygate". Hedgie and his boss BoJo have been fined £50 each by the police for partying at 10 Downing Street during the Covid-19 lockdown that their government imposed.
Gentle reader, I paid £80 last week for driving 20 yards in a bus lane. Imagine how I feel?