Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, had US green cards and were declared “permanent US residents” for tax purposes while Sunak served as chancellor.
Sunak and Murty, who own a £5.5m Californian penthouse holiday home, held green cards while they lived in the US and continued to keep the status when they moved to the UK before Sunak was elected as MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire in 2015. Sky News first reported that Sunak continued to hold a green card for at least a year of his chancellorship, which began in 2020.
The Treasury and Murty’s personal spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. A source close to the couple said “they do not currently have green cards”, but would not say exactly when they gave up the status which requires holders to “make the US your permanent home”.
The disclosure raises further awkward questions for the chancellor – who has said his multimillionaire wife had claimed non-dom status, which allows her to avoid UK tax on her foreign earnings, because she one day intended to return to live in India.
Under non-dom rules, Murty does not legally have to pay tax in the UK at the estimated £11.5m in annual dividends she collects from her stake in her billionaire father’s IT business.
The non-dom status may have allowed her to avoid up to £20m in UK tax. Murty has said she pays tax on the dividends overseas, but has refused to state how much she pays or in which country. She has previously collected other shareholder income via the tax haven of Mauritius, which does not tax dividends.
Holders of green cards are required to pay US tax on their worldwide income – and also to make a legal commitment to “make the US your permanent home”.
They are required to file annual US tax returns, and are “responsible for reporting your income and paying taxes on any foreign income earned”.
Sunak earlier told the Sun that Murty “loves her country like I love mine”, and said she had always been domiciled in India. He said she was entitled to use the non-dom arrangement as she was an Indian citizen and planned to move back to her home country to care for her parents.
Under non-dom rules, Murty pays £30,000 a year for the right not to pay UK tax on her overseas income. The status will automatically cease once she has resided in Britain for 15 years, a milestone it is understood she will reach in 2028.
Sunak insisted that Murty pays all taxes due in the UK, “and every penny that she earns internationally, for example in India, she would pay the full taxes on that”.
Critics pointed out that he said Murty “would pay” full taxes on overseas income, not that she had paid it or stated how much. They also said Sunak gave India only as an example, leaving open the possibility that Murty may have paid the tax in a tax haven where no taxes would have been due.
Labor’s shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the end, we have somebody who’s been here for eight years, raising her children here, living at … Downing Street in accommodation provided by the taxpayer and aspiring to be the wife of the next prime minister, and yet she says that she isn’t a permanent resident of this country.”
She pointed to the ministerial code mentioning that the financial status of ministers’ spouses is relevant because “there can be a conflict of interest”.