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A Tortoise File

Tax and Honour

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is one of Britain’s richest men. But how much do we know about the plastics mogul – and his tax affairs?

Tax and Honour

First published
Monday 22 February 2021

Last updated
Sunday 21 February 2021

Why this file?

How much do you know about Sir Jim Ratcliffe? Four years ago the answer was probably nothing. The self-made billionaire made his fortune from chemicals but kept a low profile. He moved his entire company to Switzerland in 2010 to minimise his tax bill. But after Britain voted to leave the EU, Ratcliffe brought Ineos back to the UK, promoting himself as a backer of British excellence. He sponsored elite British sailing and cycling teams. He promised to build a replacement for the famous British 4×4, the Land Rover Defender, in Wales. And less than two years after his return, Sir Jim Ratcliffe was knighted: for services to business. 

We wanted to drill into this conspicuous display of patriotism. Working with SourceMaterial, an independent investigative journalism platform, we looked closely at Sir Jim’s taxes. What we found was perhaps less than patriotic. Ineos appears to have paid less tax proportionately in Britain since its move back to London, when compared to its years in Switzerland. And Sir Jim himself – fresh from pocketing his knighthood – has moved to Monaco, which could potentially save him hundreds of millions of pounds in tax. 

What does such behaviour – however legal – say about the opaque functioning of the British honours system? About who we reward – and why? And how can the process be reformed to avoid potential exploitation by the wealthiest and most powerful?

Alexi Mostrous, Editor