The tax lawyer who brought down Nadhim Zahawi

The tax lawyer who brought down Nadhim Zahawi

Dan Neidle

Illustration by John Watson

Dan Neidle is not of course out to excite. When I check with the not likely toppler of the “tax-careless” Tory chair Nadhim Zahawi for anything about him that could surprise folks, he suggests, “I like developing tomatoes.” And his mum, operating in promotion in the late 1960s, dreamt up the well known “man in black” Milk Tray advertisement. But other than that, his was a standard rise. Soon after an “excellent” Watford comp, he climbed the ranks of Magic Circle law organization Clifford Probability, performing effectively enough to retire in Norfolk at the ripe aged age of 49.

His passion task is a new expert thinktank, Tax Coverage Associates. There is a vaguely progressive tilt to the work—it not long ago highlighted the perversity of HMRC slapping “late filing” fines on people far too very poor to fork out income tax—but the impulse is technocratic. Like the Institute for Fiscal Scientific tests (also at first started by City industry experts with some time and revenue), the animating suitable is earning a bewildering tax program coherent. When there’s inescapable argument about what tax rates are suitable, Neidle thinks very good tax plan “can be agreed by left and right”. 

The City can be slash-throat, but you do not lie or your career’s in excess of

What screws issues up are “arbitrary traces in the sand, which necessarily mean uncertainty for good taxpayers and avoidance for bad”. He has penned “a little bit of code” that proves e-book charges did not budge right after a VAT exemption: “You’ve surrendered £200m of public money, and it’s gone straight to publishers’ profits,” he claims. Similarly, shops gobbled up the extensive-campaigned-for VAT cut on tampons. MPs are debating VAT-free of charge sunscreen: one more expensive gimmick, he fears. Quietly a Labour member, he needs windfall levies on strength gains, but the design is all-crucial: just after BP’s heavy losses from writing off its stake in Russian oil business Rosneft, it would be mistaken to whack it as difficult as Shell.

In short, he’s a man of insistent precision in a populist age—which was enough to make him a political assassin. As a rule, he’d favor to “resist the lure” of heading soon after persons, but with “something as big as the chancellor [Zahawi’s job last summer] not shelling out tax, I experienced to stick to it.” The 6-month path of sleuthing, shifting responses, press exposés, bullying lawyers’ letters and defiance, which finally saw the disgraced millionaire minister sacked, is meticulously documented on Neidle’s internet site. What does he choose absent from the expertise?

The initial “awful lesson” was “the variation with politics and the environment I’d previously been in”. The Town can be “cut-throat”, but you really do not lie or “your career’s over”. He experienced thought “the same policies applied” in politics, and that though Zahawi could dissemble, he would not “just lie”. The future shock was receiving libel threats alongside with statements he could not point out them to everyone, which is a “widespread practice” for silencing newsrooms. He’s traced the root of these intimidation not to libel regulation as such but experienced regulation—and is making headway with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority about a tweak.

He “goes dewy-eyed” contemplating about the journalists who tracked down the facts that, mixed with Neidle’s qualified prosecution in the courtroom of public feeling, did for Zahawi. He would relatively “gargle on broken glass” than go into politics right, and expects his newest tax strike-work on Labour’s Ian Lavery to be his last for a while.  

But, when prodded, he has thoughts on how a Labour government could elevate billions. And even though at pains to describe that Rishi Sunak’s controversial American green card was “the reverse of tax avoidance”, he has issues about the specific consequences of his wife’s non-dom standing. It could be a although just before he can be securely still left to his tax-legislation manuals and tomatoes.