Darling relaxes attitude to non-doms?

Alistair Darling can't be too opposed to non-doms - he's just put one in charge of Northern Rock...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to the BBC’s Robert Peston, Ron Sandler, the new executive chairman of Northern Rock, is one of these pesky 150,000 non-doms that all our politicians seem to have such a downer on – meaning that he lives in the UK but is technically resident elsewhere for tax purposes. Apparently the new boss of the nationalised Rock has worked in the UK since the mid-1980s – but was actually born in Zimbabwe and has a German passport (although as with other non-doms, he does of course pay tax on his UK earnings, as Peston was quick to stress).

The tax status of non-doms hit the news as part of the ongoing row about private equity bosses (a number of whom are non-domiciled) paying less tax than their cleaners – although to be fair, this issue is hardly exclusive to private equity.

After the Tories announced plans for a £25,000 flat tax on UK non-doms, Chancellor Alistair Darling was forced to respond in kind – and as seems to be his wont, he wandered straight into a minefield. Last week, he was forced into what looked suspiciously like an embarrassing climb-down, when he ‘clarified’ that the government wouldn’t poke its nose into non-doms’ worldwide income (in addition to his proposed £30,000 annual charge).

So it amused us that the most significant and high-profile appointment of his tenure – the man tasked with reviving the fortunes of the ailing Rock and safeguarding £100bn of taxpayers’ money – turns out to be one of the very people that have caused him so much aggravation.

On the other hand, Darling has agreed to pay Sandler an exorbitant £90,000 a month for the privilege of running the Rock – while CFO Ann Godbehere (who according to Peston will also take non-dom status) is pocketing an almost-as-impressive £75,000 a month. So it’s not exactly as though they’re going to struggle to pay their £30,000 charge...

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