LONDON, England, Friday October 18, 2013 – Sir Richard Branson, Britain’s best loved and most successful entrepreneur, has reportedly sold his estate in Oxfordshire and moved to Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands.
The move has sparked controversy, and amid cries of “tax haven!” the Virgin boss’ spokesman confirmed that the billionaire had decided to live permanently on Necker Island, but denied that the decision was related to tax matters.
“After almost 40 years of working in the UK, Richard, now in his 60s, chose to live on his island Necker in the British Virgin Islands, an island he bought in 1979,” Sir Richard’s spokesman said.
“He spends 90 percent of his time starting not-for-profit ventures and raising millions for charity through speeches and other charitable engagements.
“Since he gives 100 percent of any monies he earns from these to charity, it makes no difference for tax purposes whether he is in the UK or the BVI.”
Writing in his own defence on his personal blog, Britain’s sixth wealthiest man insisted that he had moved to the Caribbean to help preserve his health.
“There is no better place to stay active and I can kitesurf, surf, play tennis, swim, do Pilates and just play,” he wrote.
The move nevertheless means that Branson will not be required to pay any tax on personal income made outside Britain, although he will still be taxed on UK earnings, according to The Sunday Times.
His companies, which include airlines, health clubs, balloon flights and space travel, also pay a significant amount of corporation tax, the newspaper said.
Sir Richard will not be allowed to spend more than 183 days in the UK in any one year, in order to satisfy the taxman’s definition of a “non-UK resident”.
Critics of the Virgin chief lambasted comments he made this year that Britain’s tax system was “reasonable” compared with that of France.
Responding to the actor Ray Winstone’s claim that he could see himself leaving Britain because the country was being “raped” by high taxes, Branson was quoted as saying: “I don’t think people should be leaving the UK because of our tax system. In the current economic climate it would be wrong if George Osborne was lowering taxes for the rich.”
A spokesman for UK Uncut, which campaigns against tax avoidance, was quoted in The Independent as saying: “It would be great if ordinary people on a low wage could take these steps to free themselves from austerity, but they can’t – Branson is an incredibly wealthy man.”
Sir Richard started the Virgin brand as a mail order record retailer in 1970 and founded the Virgin Atlantic airline 14 years later.
The philanthropic entrepreneur has pledged to give half his wealth, £3.5 billion according to the Sunday Times Rich List, to charity when he dies. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)