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Rishi Sunak has sacked Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative party chair. He has been sacked for a serious breach of ministerial code. This was in relation to his tax affairs. Here we look at who Nadhim Zahawi is and why he has been sacked.

Who is Nadhim Zahawi?

Nadhim was Chairman of the Conservative Party between 25th October 2002 and 29th January 2023. He was born in Baghdad, a former refugee, and came to the UK aged just 11. He was barely able to speak a word of English. After graduating in 1988 he followed in his father’s footsteps as an entrepreneur. He founded the hugely successful ‘YouGov’ polling company, eventually floating it on the stock market valued at £18 million.

Zahawi sold £1.2 million worth of shares in YouGov in 2005. He carried on working as CEO for another five years before setting his sights on politics. During his time in politics, he has held some of the biggest roles in Government. These include the Secretary of State for Education, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and eventually Chairman of the Conservative Party.

Nadhim Zahawi has served under a number of Prime Ministers including Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. The latter would be instrumental in his sacking.

Why was Nadhim Zahawi sacked?

Sunak ordered an investigation into Zahawi’s affairs following an allegation of improper conduct. Zahawi had admitted a discrepancy with HMRC. This included paying a fine to HMRC and agreeing a settlement with the Revenue. Ethics adviser, Sir Laurie Magnus conducted the investigation into his tax affairs. The inquiry concluded that there had been a serious breach of ministerial code.

The breach included not advising officials that he was under investigation by HMRC when he was appointed Chancellor in July 2022. Zahawi also failed to declare he had agreed on a settlement for avoiding tax when he was given high role cabinet positions. These positions included Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the Tory party. It is clear, a minister in such high-profile positions should have declared the discrepancies in his tax affairs. The report to Rishi Sunak stated, “Mr Zahawi’s conduct as a minister has fallen below the high standards that, as prime minister, you rightly expect from those who serve in your government.

The report would also include Zahawi’s failure to update his register of interests long after it should have been declared. The settlement was around £5 million, which also included penalties. For somebody responsible for the UK’s tax system, this was deemed to be unacceptable. Although Zahawi would insist he acted properly and that this was a careless and not deliberate error, the damage had already been done.

What Next For Nadhim Zahawi?

Sunak has praised the former Chair of the Conservative party for his services to Government. Some of his opponents have questioned that Zahawi should never have been appointed. Zahawi claims to be a victim of a smear campaign and has defended his actions. Despite this, he is now in the political wilderness. Many believe he will continue his role as a Member of Parliament. There is also the opportunity for him to return to the world of business where he has been hugely successful. So much so, he has built up huge earnings which ultimately have led to his downfall with the resulting taxes that should have been paid.

If you would like advice on your tax affairs please contact us on 0800 802 1311.