People often accuse academics of being disconnected from events in the outside world, but last week shows that’s not always the case.
A Warwick and LSE team has released great new research on non-doms – UK residents who aren’t required to pay UK tax on their overseas incomes or wealth because this isn’t their permanent home. Their timing was impeccable (although I’m assured entirely coincidental), as the rights and wrongs of the chancellor’s wife, Akshata Murty, being a non-dom dominated the news.
However, what makes it great isn’t the timing – it’s getting data on non-doms to inform often fact-free debates about the subject.
So what did we learn? Well, it helps explain why a senior politician’s family might have taken the huge, obvious political risk of being treated favourably when compared with almost the entire population.
While there aren’t many non-doms (around 70,000), when you focus on the population as a whole, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you move in certain circles: one in five top-earning bankers and two in five of those with income over £5m are/were non-doms.
Recent reforms rightly made it more difficult for people to live in the UK for long periods without losing non-dom status. Some argued that this would make us less competitive, with talented/rich people flooding out or not arriving. But this study shows that, while the numbers currently claiming non-dom status have been falling, the total number of UK residents who have at some point been non-dom has continued to rise.
The reforms levelled the tax playing field a little but didn’t scare people off. Because, luckily, the UK has more to offer than low taxes.