Did a shock £350,000 tax bill trigger Boris Johnson’s pleas for Downing St cash?


n all the controversy over Boris Johnson’s costly flat refurbishment and his falling out with Dominic Cummings, the most perplexing question is why a Prime Minister paid £157,000 a year should feel the need to ask donors to pay for his wallpaper.

But now senior Conservatives believe they have the answer. Tory grandees are convinced the PM’s pleas of poverty were triggered by a giant income tax demand that landed on his doorstep months after he moved into 10 Downing Street and which swallowed up his entire official salary for two years.

An analysis of the Prime Minister’s published finances reveals this bill could indeed have been colossal. Two leading tax experts estimate it would have added up to £350,000 or even £370,000, the first tranche becoming due in January 2020 which is when Mr Johnson appears to have started his quest for donors to help cover the redecorations of the flat he shares with fiancée Carrie Symonds.

It all stems from a year of prolific — and lucrative — public speaking and writing after his resignation from Theresa May’s Cabinet as foreign secretary on July 9, 2018 to the day he marched triumphantly back in as Prime Minister on July 23, 2019.

In the space of just over 12 months the future PM pulled in £797,262.68 — putting him firmly inside the 45 per cent tax bracket for most of his extra-parliamentary earnings.

Over half of his sudden windfall came from the after-dinner speaking circuit. Boris was flown to New York, New Delhi and Geneva by banks and corporations.

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A single speaking engagement in Delhi earned him a fee of £122,899 from media firm India Today which also paid for flights and accommodation. He pocketed £94,507 from GoldenTree Asset Management for flying to the United States. A speech in Dublin earned him another £51,250.

Altogether Mr Johnson made £450,475 from nine paid speaking engagements. The former journalist also cashed in on the demand from people to read his views as speculation mounted that he might succeed Mrs May.


November 8 2018, £94,507.85 plus expenses for speech to GoldenTree Asset Management, Park Avenue, New York.

December 4 2018, £28,900 plus travel and accommodation for speech to KNect365.

January 10 2019, £51,250 from Pendulum Events & Training, Dublin.

March 2 2019: £122,899.74 plus transport and accommodation for a speech to India Today, New Delhi.

March 12 2019: £38,250 plus VAT for speaking to Citigroup, Canary Wharf.

April 10 2019: £25,297.62 plus transport expenses giving speech for Banque Pictet & Cie SA, Geneva.

May 14 2019: £21,250 plus VAT for speech to Pomerantz LLP, New York.

May 16 2019: £25,540 plus VAT for speech to British Insurance Brokers Organisation.

May 24 2019: £42,580 from Swiss Economic Forum AG, for speech. Transport provided for Mr Johnson and member of his staff.

Total: £450,475.21

He made £295,790 from columns and articles. His weekly piece for the Telegraph took him 10 hours a month to write and netted £22,916 each month — a rate of £2,291 an hour. All of Mr Johnson’s extra-parliamentary earnings were declared in the register of members’ financial interests. But senior Tories think the sudden bulge in his income left him having to shoulder a big tax demand the following year.

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“Boris is famously chaotic with money — it is not hard to imagine him spending the money and then finding out he owes an absolute fortune in income tax to the Treasury,” said a Tory grandee.

“It would certainly explain why within months of arriving at Downing Street he is said to have been complaining that he could not afford to live on a PM’s salary and started asking donors to pay for the redecoration of his flat.”


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