28 July 2005

Royal finances under scrutiny

MPs have been examining the finances of the Queen and Prince Charles. In addition to payments from the civil list, both have other sources of income from "private" estates.

The Duchy of Lancaster accounts show that the Queen benefited from a surplus of £9.7m, a 19.6% increase on the year before, while this year's Duchy of Cornwall accounts showed that Prince Charles's private income from his estates at £13.2m, up 11% on the previous year.

These amounts are in addition to civil list payments that the Royals receive from the state.

Both the Duchy of Lancaster and Duchy of Cornwall are exempt from capital gains tax and corporation tax, and are passed upon death without being subject to any inheritance tax. These tax breaks alone are worth several million pounds per year to the Queen and Prince Charles.

The accounts also show that the Duchy of Cornwall purchased a house for Michael Fawcett, Charles's very close friend and personal assistant. In 2003 Mr Fawcett obtained unprecedented injunctions preventing a raft of UK newspapers publishing allegations that he was caught in bed with Prince Charles.

MP have also voiced unease about the Duchy hiring interior designer Annabel Elliot. Mrs Elliot was paid to renovate three holiday cottages on the Isles of Scilly. MPs have pointed out a possible conflict of interest - Mrs Elliot happens to be the sister of Camilla Parker Bowles!

Many UK taxpayers will likely be shocked that they are having their own incomes taxed at up to 40%+, whilst the richest in the land, with jobs for life, are able to inherit large estates without paying inheritance tax, and then run those estates at a profit without paying any corporation or capital gains tax.

Cronyism, tax dodging and corruption. The changes in the House of Windsor appear largely cosmetic.

More information
The Guardian - MPs tell Prince of Wales: Open up
The Observer - Prince's £12m salary investigated