Jeremy Corbyn has blamed “media barons” for causing confusion over his tax affairs, with the Labour leader arguing newspaper owners were fuelling “entirely false claims”.
Corbyn on Sunday attempted to flush out millionaire Chancellor Philip Hammond’s tax return by publishing a summary of his own.
But it appeared to backfire when it was unclear whether the Labour MP included his top-up salary as party leader in his headline calculations.
Journalists from many news organisations made inquiries to Corbyn’s press team about why the £114,342 he declared he earned in 2015-16 was tens of thousands of pounds short of what it should have been.
Press handlers, who were masterminding the political stunt to embarrass the Tories, could not fully explain the discrepancy, only that the calculations had been handled by accountants.
Only at close to 1am, when national newspapers had gone to press, did Corbyn’s media team explain a ‘public office’ income of £27,192.22 was included in the summary under a section marked ‘other pensions and retirement annuities’.
This simple explanation hours earlier would have killed the story stone dead. HuffPost UK explains the summary of the return here.
“Jeremy believes firmly in transparency. These media barons have tax questions of their own to answer." Jeremy Corbyn spokesperson
With the details clarified, now the Labour leader has turned his fire on the “owners of the media companies” that have “attempted to cast doubt over Jeremy’s transparent and accurate tax return”. And he goes on to suggest “media barons have tax questions of their own to answer”, a reference to some media companies who are registered overseas.
A Jeremy Corbyn spokesperson said this afternoon in a statement:
“Jeremy’s tax return is complete and accurate. He has declared all income and paid the appropriate amount of tax.
“The payment he received in 2015-16 as Leader of the Opposition of £27,192 appears on the return as a ‘benefit’ rather than as pay because that is how it is categorised by HMRC.
“This figure is calculated after deducting the waivers Jeremy has made of earlier increases to the benefit. These waivers were also made by his predecessor, Ed Miliband. A parliamentary pension contribution of £3,395 was also deducted.
“We are disappointed the Cabinet Office did not clarify this and explain the figure used on the P60 yesterday in answer to media inquiries they received.
“It is also a matter of concern that some media organisations made entirely false claims without verifying or confirming the facts, and we expect these now to be corrected.
“The owners of the media companies that have attempted to cast doubt over Jeremy’s transparent and accurate tax return are of course among those who could stand to lose from the tax transparency and justice the British people demand.
“Jeremy believes firmly in transparency. These media barons have tax questions of their own to answer. Tax avoidance and evasion deprive the public purse of billions in revenue for vital services and is unfair on those with much lower earnings who pay a higher proportion of their income in tax.”
It’s unclear who Team Corbyn is targetting. A common refrain among his supporters is that the newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the Barclay brothers - including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Sun and Times - are biased against the Labour leader and his left-wing policies.
However, various media reported the attempt to humiliate Hammond and the confusion surrounding Corbyn’s statement, including the Huffington Post UK, the BBC, Press Association and PoliticsHome among others.