Village of cashGeoff Caddick/PA Archive/Press Association Images

There's genuinely shocking news from the world of tax today. It has emerged that Britain's highest earner paid tax on his earnings in the last tax year. He made £84 million, and passed a stunning £34 million to the taxman, because he said he didn't want to cheat the system.

So why is this unusual enough to be news?


Harding pays up

David Harding, founder of the Winton Capital hedge fund, paid 39% of everything he earned over to the taxman in the last year. Britain's best-paid man revealed his tax affairs, showing that he was happy to pay his share.

He took a salary of £16.1 million - paying 50% income tax on it, and handing over £8 million. He then took £71.3 million in dividends from his company - on which he paid the lower rate of 40% tax. He also paid £325,000 in national insurance contributions. He has been named as Britain's biggest taxpayer

In an interview with the Sunday Times he said: "I think that if you want to be accepted by society you have to be seen to be paying your share. I think the resentment and anger is felt among the middle class - the civil servants, the teachers, the soldiers, the public sector workers, the professional classes, the backbone of the British nation."

Why not?

It's a laudable view: one that puts the good of the nation over and above the needs of the individual. You could argue that his needs are perfectly adequately met anyway by the £50 million or so he still has sloshing about, so this is no great sacrifice.

However, if it is so easy for him to do this, it begs the question of why so many mega-earners fail to do it too. A report from the TUC has claimed that every year an astonishing £13 billion is avoided in taxes by the UK's wealthiest people.

Avoidance

Is there a good reason, for example, why Sir Philip Green (government adviser and Topshop magnate) needed to assign ownership of his empire to his Monaco-based wife? Is there some reason why she is more qualified to own it?... Aside from the fact she can pay lower tax on the dividends.

Is there a good reason why a footballer needed to own a Jersey-based trust? In his 2004 divorce, Ray Parlour revealed his wage was paid into the trust - which then gave him low-interest loans that he didn't have to pay tax on. He saved about £0.5 million in three years.

And perhaps the least said about Jimmy Carr's famous foray into tax avoidance, the better. Or as he put it himself on Twitter. He made a 'terrible error of judgement' and said that in future he would 'conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly'.

As Harding says, no-one wants to pay more tax. It's just that some people consider it their duty. As he told the newspaper: "I'd rather not pay the tax. But everyone is aware that the country has to fill in its budget deficit from somewhere."

It says something quite awful about the mega-rich, if the fact that one of them is doing the decent thing. is worthy of headlines.