Hamilton posed with a Union Jack. But he lives in Monaco—and his inscrutable tax arrangements should give us pauseby Steve Bloomfield / October 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
Pictures of Lewis Hamilton holding up the Union flag in celebration are across all today’s back pages. The British racing driver has become Formula One world champion for the fourth time, making him the most successful Briton in the sport’s history. But don’t mistake that flag for patriotism—Hamilton is no national hero.
Formula One drivers are paid millions of pounds a year. Hamilton is one of the richest—his three-year deal with Mercedes is worth £100m. His tax bill should run into the tens of millions, but although Hamilton claims he does pay some tax in the UK, his arrangements are far from clear. Recently, he moved from tax-friendly Switzerland to equally friendly Monaco.
This is not the behaviour of a patriotic hero, it’s the actions of a selfish individualist.
How much tax would Hamilton pay altogether if his income was taxed at UK rates? On top of the reported £33.3m a year from Mercedes, Forbes magazine estimates he brings in a further £6m from advertising deals, bringing his overall income to £39.3m. Let’s assume his agent takes 15 per cent—that leaves Hamilton with a likely pay-packet of 33,405,000.
Like every Brit, he would have a personal allowance of £11,500. The next £22,000 is taxed at 20 per cent, a further £116,500 is taxed at 40 per cent and the remaining £33,2500,000 is taxed at the top rate of 45 per cent. That gives Hamilton a tax bill of £15,015,750, leaving him with a net income of £18,389,250. True, £18m isn’t £30m—but it would still put him in the top 0.001 of British earners.
Hamilton and his supporters may argue that his success has nothing to do with Britain. That’s not true. He made his name at McLaren, a company packed with British-trained engineers and scientists. The Mercedes team he now races for is based in Brackley, near Milton Keynes.
Who paid for their training? For their education? Their healthcare? Who paid for the roads they drove in to work on? For the police and fire fighters who kept them safe? Indeed, who paid for that entire town to be built from scratch?
And let’s not forget the role the British state played in Hamilton’s early life. It paid for his education, it paid for his child benefit, it paid for the hospital where he was born in Stevenage. No one is rich enough to not rely on the wealth of others. Hamilton owes his career to a generation of British taxpayers.
So, what could Britain do with an extra £15m a year? Funnily enough, £15m was roughly the annual budget for Stevenage borough council, before the current government’s cuts kicked in. If Lewis Hamilton wants to be a true national hero he should come home and pay his taxes.