The Prime Minister’s press secretary was repeatly pressed on whether he had paid a tax penalty like former Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who is currently embroiled in a scandal about his tax affairs. They said: “You wouldn’t expect me to get into the Prime Minister’s tax affairs, they are confidential. The tax affairs of an individual, irrespective of who they are, are confidential.”
He did however say Sunak would publish his tax return “in due course”, but refused to commit to the publishing of six years of the Prime Minister’s tax returns - as former PM David Cameron did. Labour has said that the Prime Minister should be clear whether he has ever paid a tax penalty.
It comes after Tory Party chairman and Minister Without Portfolio Nadhim Zahawi reportedly had to cough up a seven-figure sum to end a dispute with the taxman, following scrutiny of his family’s financial affairs. The MP has admitted to paying a tax settlement to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) - saying that the reason for this was the department disagreed with the allocation of founder shares his father took when he set up polling company YouGov.
Sunak has ordered new ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to launch an investigation into Zahawi, which he said will assess whether the former chancellor breached the ministerial code with the settlement to HMRC. He told reporters during a visit to a hospital in Northampton that “integrity and accountability” were “really important” to him, and “clearly there are questions that need answering.”
The Prime Minister also faced questions about Zahawi from Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during PMQs on Wednesday (25 January). Here, Sunak argued that “the issues in question took place before I was prime minister”, but insisted that when it came to appointing Zahawi to his Cabinet, the “usual appointments process was followed” and “no issues” were raised with him.
When Starmer argued the Prime Minister’s failure to sack Zahawi showed “how hopelessly weak he is”, Sunak retorted by saying it is “right that we fully investigate this matter and look at all the facts” - and that by doing so, he was “standing up for proper due process.”