UKIP leader Nigel Farage admits mistake after setting up offshore fund to avoid tax
The UKIP leader paid a tax adviser to create a trust in the Isle of Man – which he intended to channel funds through
Evidence: Farage fronted by Daily Mirror reporter Nick Sommerlad in Aberdeen (Photo:Newsline)
Nigel Farage opened an offshore trust fund in a plan to slash his tax bill, a Mirror investigation has revealed.
But he insisted he did not personally benefit from the trust fund he set up in a bid to save thousands of pounds in tax.
And the UKIP leader even claimed he ended up out of pocket after opening the scheme on the Isle of Man.
The 49-year-old paid a tax adviser to create the Farage Family Educational Trust 1654 in the tax haven – which he intended to channel funds through.
The outspoken anti-Europe [‘anti-EU’] politician confessed its existence during a string of meetings with our investigators.
But the former City trader said: “My financial advisers recommended I did it, to have a trust really for inheritance purposes and I took the advice and I set it up.
“It was a mistake. I was a completely unsuitable person for it. I am not blaming them it was my fault.
“It’s a vehicle that you chuck things in through your life that you don’t need and you build up a trust fund for your children or grandchildren.
“It was called an educational trust and could have been used for grandchildren’s schools fees, things like that.
“It was a mistake for three reasons. Firstly, I’m not rich enough to need one and I am never going to be.
“Secondly, frankly, the world has changed. Things that we thought were absolutely fair practice 10 years, 20 years ago, 30 years ago aren’t any more.
“Thirdly, it was a mistake because it cost me money. I sent a cheque off to set it up.”
Farage’s statements are even more extraordinary as he criticised offshore tax havens – naming the Isle of Man – in a speech in the European Parliament.
Tax expert Richard Murphy, who studied our dossier, said: “There are only two good reasons to set up an Isle of Man trust.
“One is secrecy, you don’t want someone to know what is in there. The other is tax avoidance.
“And sometimes, of course, they go together.”
Tax dodging costs Britain £35billion a year, according to HM Revenue and Customs, but Tax Research experts say it is as much as £123billion.
David Cameron backed a landmark deal at the G8 summit this week to crack down on corporate tax evasion.
The Mirror confronted Farage with financial documents as he campaigned for UKIP in Aberdeen.
These revealed he transferred his shareholding in Farage Limited after it was founded in 2003 to the Farage Family Educational Trust, based in Douglas, capital of the Isle of Man.
This meant the trust owned a 33% stake in Farage Limited, later rising to 50%.
Quizzed about the Farage Family Educational Trust, the politician insisted: “I was not a beneficiary.”
When we showed him a copy of Farage Limited accounts from 2004 indicating he owned shares in the city trading firm, he declared: “They are wrong then, aren’t they?
“I originally had the shares. I gave them away to the trust.”
Asked who set up the trust, Farage replied: “I set it up on behalf of somebody else.”
Pressed on who were the owners of the trust, Farage added: “There are none. It is closed.”
His brother Andrew, a co-director who owned the other 50% of the company, pocketed £969,000 in dividends from the firm.
Farage initially refused to confirm his sibling’s windfall. Asked if the payouts went to Andrew, he replied: “They must have done.”
And pushed on who received the £969,000, he said: “It’s a slightly unfair question because you are asking me to implicate someone else’s tax affairs in the Daily Mirror.
“It’s sensitive and the sums of money are quite big. You’re talking about nearly a million quid.
“The accountant who set up the company is prepared to speak to you.
“He will tell you on the record that I never received any dividends at all from that company ever and it all went to one individual. It’s not difficult to work out who it was.”
Farage Limited’s accountant Spencer Watson later confirmed that all £969,000 in dividends were paid to Andrew.
When we contacted Farage’s 47-year-old brother, he said: “I don’t want to make any comment. If I did, I did.
“If that’s what I earned that’s what I earned. All my money was paid and tax was paid on it in this country.
“Nigel had nothing to do with those monies. But if that’s what my accountant is saying then that’s fine.”
Farage himself claimed he was “unpaid during that period of time”. He added: “I packed up business completely in 2004.”
But on his Declaration of Members’ Financial Interests for the European Parliament dated January 2004, he stated that he was paid for being a director of Farage Limited.
He was also company secretary of the firm.
In every annual declaration from 2004 to 2009, Farage stated he was paid for “commodity broking”.
Farage Limited was his only company appointment posted at Companies House.
He later gave the Mirror a longer interview at the Kent home he shares with German-born wife Kirsten.
After inviting us into his kitchen, Farage was asked why he told EU officials he was paid for “commodity broking”, as he had said to our reporter he gave up business in 2004.
He replied: “Just to be careful, purely caution. I was over-declaring. I didn’t need to do it.”
He said he was unpaid as secretary and it was “an act of brotherly love”.
Companies House documents show the offshore trust remained a shareholder in Farage Limited until 2011.
The right-winger insisted it shut down in 2007 or 2008.
He said: “I sent a cheque off to set it up, out of my own taxed income, and basically just through administration fees that money disappeared.”
Accountant Mr Watson said he was not involved in setting up the Isle of Man trust for Farage.
He revealed Farage Limited lost a major client in 2011 and owed unpaid corporation tax.
Six weeks after the Eurosceptic resigned as company secretary in 2011, HMRC filed a petition to wind up the company.
Farage Limited went into a “voluntary arrangement” in 2011, one step short of going into administration.
Its debts of more than £100,000 are due to be paid off by 2017.
Farage on tax
Outspoken Nigel Farage last month told fellow members of the European Parliament they had a “common enemy – rich people, successful companies evading tax”.
The UKIP leader was elected as an MEP in 1999, earning £64,000 a year but he has boasted about claiming £2million in allowances.
Speaking on May 21 this year, he attacked European bureaucrats earning £100,000 a year who pay 12% tax under EU rules.
Farage said: “It is tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale. How can that be deemed to be fair?
“How can people struggling – the 16 million unemployed in the eurozone – look at these institutions, not only paying people vast sums of money but allowing them tax and pension benefits on a scale not seen elsewhere in the world?”
Farage has also called for tax cuts for the rich to tackle tax avoidance.
He said: “The biggest reason tax havens are allowed to prosper is we’ve this mindset we must try and get as much tax out of successful individuals as we possibly can.
“If you do that, and if you have a complicated tax system, people will do all they can within the law to avoid paying tax.”
Why rich leg it to Isle of Man
Tax and secrecy are the biggest industries on the Isle of Man, employing around a quarter of the island’s 86,000 population.
But the Manx government is coming under new pressure to uncover its financial dealings.
There is no inheritance tax on the island and most companies pay no corporation tax.
Income tax is 20% or lower for individuals and is capped at £120,000 tax a year.
This low-tax culture has created a finance industry generating 40% of the island’s economy, where the average wage is 50% higher than the rest of the UK.
But tax campaigners, such as UK Uncut, have shifted attention to the murky side of island life, helping criminals and tax dodgers hide cash.
A crackdown on tax evasion using the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey is expected to raise £1billion in five years, says HM Revenue & Customs.
1999 Nigel Farage elected to European Parliament
February 2003 Farage, his brother Andrew Farage and a third director set up commodity trading firm Farage Limited.
August 2003 A document filed at Companies House stated that Nigel Farage owned no shares in Farage Limited and the Farage Family Educational Trust 1654 owned 33 shares.
May 2004 Another document filed at Companies House stated that Nigel Farage owned 33 shares in Farage Limited and the Farage Family Educational Trust owned none.
October 2004 Farage was appointed company secretary of Farage Limited.
February 2006 Farage resigned as director of Farage Limited but remained as company secretary.
September 2006 Nigel Farage became leader of UKIP.
November 2009 Nigel Farage stood down as UKIP leader.
November 2010 Farage was re-elected leader of UKIP.
May 2010 Farage failed to win a seat at Westminster in the general election.
February 2011 Nigel Farage resigned as company secretary of Farage Limited.
March 2011 HM Revenue & Customs filed a petition at the High Court to wind up Farage Limited.
July 2011 Farage Limited went into a “voluntary arrangement” to pay off its debts by 2017.