Wed. May 25th, 2022

Rishi Sunak has branded criticism of his wife as “unpleasant smears” aimed at harming him as the UK chancellor faced further criticism for her tax status.

Akshata Murty, Sunak’s wife, has been under fire for holding non-domiciled status in the UK – which allows her to earn money abroad without paying UK tax for up to 15 years – and her explanation for it.

In an interview with The Sun on Thursday, Sunak hit back at the accusations, stating his wife “loves her country like I love mine”, adding “to smear my wife to get at me is awful”.

The chancellor said Murty “had her own career” and was “100 percent doing everything this country asks of her” in terms of following the law and paying taxes.

Several tax experts said the explanation that Murty’s non-dom status was based on her Indian citizenship was “disingenuous”, Pointing out that she would have actively chosen to be a non-dom for tax purposes.

Murty owns a stake in Indian technology company Infosys, which was founded by her father, which is thought to be worth more than £ 500mn.

Sunak said: “It would not be reasonable or fair to ask her to sever ties with her country because she happens to be married to me. She loves her country. Like I love mine, I would never dream of giving up my British citizenship. And I imagine most people would not, ”Sunak said.

“These are her choices, right? She’s a private citizen, and of course I support my wife’s choices. She’s not her husband’s possession. Yes, he’s in politics, and we get that but I think you know, we get that she can be someone independent of her husband in her own right. ”

The dispute comes after Sunak’s political standing tumbled following the Spring Statement. His position on Murty’s tax status was criticized on Friday as “unsustainable” by ConservativeHome, a leading website representing the party’s grassroots.

The chancellor said that the attacks on Murty and her father Narayana Murthy, who founded Infosys, were focused on him. “To attempt to smear him, to smear my wife to get at me is awful.

“It’s different when people are trying to attack you by coming at your family and particularly your wife. It’s unpleasant, especially when she has not done anything wrong. ”

Sunak said that he thought people did not have an issue with “the fact that there’s an Indian woman living in Downing Street” although he acknowledged that “it is a confusing situation that she is from another country”.

Emily Thornberry, shadow attorney-general, rejected suggestions that the Labor party were attempting to “smear” the chancellor, arguing that they were simply “asking questions that the public want us to ask”.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “In the end, we have somebody who’s been living here for eight years, raising her children here, living at No 10 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 is not a permanent resident of this country. ”

Thornberry added that the public had a right to know “to what extent his family have benefited from” his wife’s financial decision.

Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and chair of the House of Commons defense select committee, said the current rules relating to non-dom status were “out of date” and “needed to be reviewed”, but he argued that the country had other matters to focus on such as the conflict in Ukraine.

“There is nothing illegal about what has been done by the chancellor. . . If there are bigger, more fundamental questions about the existence of the non-dom status, that is something for us as a country – perhaps and indeed parliament – to debate, ”he told Sky News on Friday.

“But the idea that we focus on this discussion about following the rules that actually exist at the moment, I think, is a distraction from what we need to be focusing on, which was the previous subject right now, of what Britain is going to do to help and lead other countries to support Ukraine. ”

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