Boris Johnson and Michael Gove ‘attack HMRC over Brexit donor tax grab’
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have reportedly attacked a move by HMRC to tax Brexit-backing donors as “bad for democracy”.
Their intervention comes after it was revealed those who had pumped millions into the campaign to take Britain out of the EU are being hit with six or seven-figure tax bills - despite donations to political parties, charities and other bodies usually being exempt.
Lord Edmiston, who donated £1m, the banker Peter Cruddas and the former Ukip donor Arron Banks who gave £8.1m to the unofficial Leave.EU campaign are said to be among those expected to fork out.
Mr Cruddas told the Telegraph that he had given hundreds of thousands of pounds to other political campaigns – including the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum – but had never been previously approached by HMRC.
A source close to Mr Johnson told the Sunday Telegraph the decision would “not only hit the plucky individuals” who backed the Vote Leave campaign, but would affect grassroots campaigns chances of success in the future.
He said: “We should never forget that the Establishment spent £9 million on statefunded leaflets. It is always hard to match that kind of spending, but this could make it almost impossible. This can only be bad for our democracy.”
A source close to Mr Gove, the Environment Secretary, said: “Michael is obviously concerned about action that appears to impinge on our democratic values.
"This will appear to many like an attempt to silence anyone who dare challenge the establishment and status quo.”
A spokesperson for HMRC said while political parties were often exempt from tax, the same did not apply to referendums.
“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,” they said.
"No special exemption was granted ahead of the 2016 referendum. The legislation is applied without regard to the policies of organisations, groups or parties.”