Rishi Sunak became leader of the Conservative party and the UK’s 57th prime minister in October 2022. With his wife Akshata Murty — the daughter of Narayana Murthy, Indian billionaire and co-founder of IT services giant Infosys — he has been estimated to have a net worth of £529 million in 2023.
This ranked the couple in 275th place on the Sunday Times “Rich List” of the most wealthy people in the United Kingdon. It was a fall from 222nd position from the previous year, with the 2022 list putting the couple’s net worth in the region of £730 million.
Sunak’s net worth makes him richer than King Charles III, who (before his inheritance) was estimated to have a net worth of around £400 million.
Mr and Mrs Sunak’s most valuable asset has long been a shareholding in Infosys, an Indian IT company set up by Ms Murty’s father. The recent £201 million dip in their fortunes has been attributed to a “slide” in the Infosys’ share price in 2022.
Before meeting Ms Murthy, Rishi Sunak worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and later as a partner in a hedge fund. He then became a director of investment firm Catamaran Ventures, owned by his father-in-law, Indian businessman N. R. Narayana Murthy.
In April 2022, it was revealed that Mr Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, had claimed non-dom status — allowing her to avoid UK tax on her vast foreign income. According to the Sunday Times, without non-dom status Ms Murty would have been liable for £20.6 million of UK tax on those Infosys dividends. Ms Murty later promised to give up that status and start paying taxes on her full income.
In all, Ms Murthy’s lucrative dividends far exceed the prime minister’s own earnings. He published financial statements that showed he earned just under £2 million in 2021/22. This is more than 50 times the average full-time UK salary.
Mr Sunak’s income comes from his MP and ministerial wages as well as returns from his investment portfolio and other unspecified “gains”.
The prime minister and Ms Murthy are reported to own several properties, including a five-bedroom Kensington mews house, a Californian penthouse in Santa Monica, and a listed manor house near Mr Sunak’s constituency in North Yorkshire.
The political dimension to Rishi Sunak’s wealth
Rishi Sunak’s wealth has been met with some resistance from the public and MPs.
A 2022 Savanta ComRes word cloud, containing responses to the question: “How you would describe Rishi Sunak in one word?”, returned the answer “rich” in a signifiant number responses.
In October 2022, upon Mr Sunak’s arrival in Downing Street, the Labour MP Nadia Whittome wrote on twitter: “Rishi Sunak and his wife sit on a fortune of £730,000,000 [2022 rich list estimate]. That’s around twice the estimated wealth of King Charles III. Remember this whenever he talks about making ‘tough decisions’ that working class people will pay for’. The tweet garnered 25,000 retweets and 94,000 likes.
Rishi Sunak has previously addressed his “fortunate” position in an interview with the NY Times. Asked in August 2022, he said the public should judge politicians for their “character and actions” rather than their “bank account”.
What does Rishi Sunak pay in tax?
Mr Sunak promised in July 2023 to publish his tax affairs if he became party leader, which eventually came to pass in October.
The documents, eventually released in March 2023, showed that the prime minister made just over £1 million in income and £3.7 million in capital gains between 2019-20 and 2021-22.
Over this period, he paid just over £1 million in UK tax.In 2020/21, the prime minister earned £156,164 in salary, £182,186 in investment and savings income and £1.439m in capital gains, adding up to £1.777m, and in 2019/20 – when he was appointed chancellor in February 2020 – he earned a total of £1.018m from income and gains.
It showed he earned a total of £4.766m across the three years and paid a total of £1.053m in tax.
The documents were published just over half an hour before the end of Boris Johnson’s grilling at the privileges committee, which was investigating whether he misled parliament over partygate.
Do all prime ministers publish tax returns?
Unlike in the US, where it is typical for presidents to publish their tax records, there is no clear precedent for UK prime ministers to do so.
Both Boris Johnson and Liz Truss did not publish theirs; and while Theresa May and Michael Gove did so during the 2016 leadership campaign, Mrs May did not follow up with subsequent returns during her time in office.
David Cameron released his tax records in 2016 after questions were raised about his personal wealth by mentioning his late father’s offshore fund in the Panama Papers.
Following the release of the prime minister’s tax records, Keir Starmer released his own. The documents, detailing the Labour leader’s earnings for the last two years, reveal that he earned little outside his parliamentary income except for a windfall when his sister sold the family home that he helped her buy. Over the last two years, Sir Keir earned a total of almost £275,000. Just under £22,000 of this came from legal fees in 2020-21 and £543 came from book royalties in 2021-22.
Sir Keir also gained just under £100,000 when his sister sold a property that he had helped her buy for her family to live in. In total, he paid £118,580 in income tax and capital gains tax on these earnings.