Taxman accused of targeting Brexit-backing donors
HMRC has been accused of singling out wealthy donors who backed Brexit and donated to leave campaigns, a national newspaper has revealed.
The Daily Telegraph found the Treasury was demanding six or seven figure amounts on the donations given to the campaigns by high profile donors such as billionaire Aaron Banks.
Letters which could lead to them paying out up to £2m have been issued to them by HMRC in the past fortnight.
Treasury officials have allegedly used an obscure area of inheritance tax law that slaps large levies on gifts to justify the bills.
Donations made to political parties, charities and other bodies are usually deemed exempt from the rules, but HMRC has ruled that payments from individuals to referendum campaigns are taxable.
At least one Remain donor has also been sent a letter, but major global banks which backed the campaign to stay in the EU have not been hit with bills.
Mr Banks, a former Ukip donor, is also facing a demand. He could be expected to pay £2m in inheritance tax on his £8.1m donation to the unofficial Leave.EU campaign.
Mr Banks described the tax demand as the "revenge of the establishment".
He said: "After the campaign all the Remainers got gongs and the Leavers got kicked in the a***.
“That money was taxed – why should it be taxed for a second time? It is lunacy. It is a political attack.”
HMRC said that none of the referendum campaigns was a political party even though two of them were regulated by the Electoral Commission.
An HMRC spokesman said: “Donations to campaign groups don’t qualify as exempt gifts to political parties, unless the recipient is a political party meeting the criteria set out in section 24 of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984.”
"No special exemption was granted ahead of the 2016 referendum. The legislation is applied without regard to the policies of organisations, groups or parties.”