SIR Richard Branson has insisted that he has not left Britain for tax reasons, saying he was living on his holiday island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) because he loves the place.
He commented on the issue on his blog after it was reported that his decision to leave Britain after selling his Oxfordshire estate was a turnaround for the charismatic entrepreneur who has draped himself in the Union flag to promote his business.
The move means the businessman would not be required to pay any tax on personal income made outside Britain, although he would still be taxed on UK earnings. His companies, which include airlines, balloon flights and health clubs, will also pay a significant amount of corporation tax.
Non-residency rules mean Sir Richard is permitted to be in Britain between 46 and 183 days a year. Sir Richard’s spokesman said he had been living on the island for seven years and stressed it made no difference for tax purposes whether he was in the UK or the BVI.
In his blog Sir Richard said: “We are fortunate enough to live on Necker, the most beautiful place in the world, because it is our home where we can live life to the full. I have not left Britain for tax reasons, but for my love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island, which I bought 34 years ago as an uninhabited island. Over that time, we have built our home there, a place where my family and I are able to truly relax.
“Seven years ago we decided to move permanently to Necker as we feel it gives me and my wife Joan the best chance to live another productive few decades. We can also look after our health. I still work day and night, now focusing on not-for-profit ventures, but on Necker I can also look after my health. There is no better place to stay active and I can kitesurf, surf, play tennis, swim, do Pilates and just play.
“I spent 40 years working day and night in Great Britain building companies and creating competition and choice for consumers across a whole range of industries. The companies we created from scratch have created tens of thousands of jobs and paid hundreds of millions in tax.
“Now in my 60s, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and contributed and now spend the vast majority of my time building not-for-profit ventures, raising awareness around important issues and earning money for charity. I have been very fortunate to accumulate so much wealth in my career, more than I need in my lifetime and would not live somewhere I don’t want to for tax reasons.
“In addition to the work I do from Necker, I also travel the world sharing what I’ve learned by doing speeches and trying to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. 100 per cent of any monies I earn from these engagements I give to charity. This amounts to many millions per year, and will continue to do so.”
Sir Richard started the Virgin brand as a mail order record retailer in 1970 and founded the Virgin Atlantic airline 14 years later.
He is Britain’s sixth wealthiest man, with a £2.9 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine.