PRINCE Charles was last night facing mounting pressure to pay his “fair share” of tax after an MP pointed to growing “concerns” over his financial arrangements.
Increasing scrutiny is falling upon the Prince of Wales’ estate, which provides heirs to the throne with a private income, after Margaret Hodge, the chair of a powerful Commons committee, questioned whether it was returning enough money to taxpayers.
Ms Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate should pay taxes in the same way as other businesses, adding that no one should be allowed to simply make a voluntary corporation tax contribution.
It comes as the Prince’s finances are to be further investigated courtesy of a Channel 4 Dispatches programme tonight, which claims to disclose several property deals, including one which generates the estate several million pounds a year from supermarket giant, Waitrose. Labour MP Ms Hodge yesterday drew a parallel between the £763 million estate – which pays no corporation or capital gains tax – and the “immoral” Starbucks, which has been the subject of widespread criticism over its financial dealings.
She said: “We’ve just had the example of Starbucks voluntarily agreeing to pay £20m in corporation tax, and while the payment of some tax is welcome, I don’t think anybody should pay a voluntary contribution.
“It should be a fair system that is transparent and is set and you pay your dues. And I think that goes for everybody.
“There are concerns over why the Duchy of Cornwall doesn’t pay corporation tax and whether a fair share of tax is paid from the profits and income raised in the Duchy.”
The committee has already announced a parliamentary hearing into the Prince’s tax affairs, scheduled for a fortnight’s time. William Nye, Charles’s principal private secretary, and Keith Willis, the estate’s finance director, will appear before MPs on 15 July.
Ms Hodge is just the latest figure to call for greater transparency of how the estate conducts its business.
Yesterday, Labour peer Lord Berkeley said there should be an independent review of the Duchy’s housing policy after it emerged it is charging some tenants on the Isles of Scilly double what council tenants pay.
He said: “There’s a common perception that the Duchy is expensive and I think it only right that we investigate exactly what it is charging compared to other landlords.”
The estate, from which Charles received a record private income of £19m last year, boasts a significant portfolio of more than 50,000 hectares of land as well as numerous investments.
Accounts published last week showed that the Prince’s funding from the taxpayer fell year on year by 47 per cent, from £2.1m to £1.1m.
However, a spokeswoman for the Duchy of Cornwall estate defended the way its business was conducted. She said: “The Duchy of Cornwall is a private landed estate. It is not a public body, nor is it funded by the taxpayer.
“The Prince of Wales chooses to use his income from the Duchy, rather than public money, to cover the great majority of the cost of the public duties of both himself and the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.”