Political news

Arlene Foster and Mike Nesbitt release tax returns

First minister Arlene Foster has released her tax returns for 2014-15
Connla Young

ARLENE Foster and Mike Nesbitt have become the first Stormont leaders to publish details of their tax payments for the last financial year.

The move on Monday comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron released a summary of his tax affairs from 2009-2015.

He has been under intense pressure about his finances since the 'Panama Papers' data leak revealed he and his wife made £19,000 profit on shares in an off-shore trust set up by his father.

Mrs Foster’s returns show that she earned a ministerial salary of more than £78,000 and paid over £20,000 in tax during 2014-15.

Office expenses amounted to over £65,500.

The figures covers the period before she took on the job of First Minister in January.

Her tax documents confirm she received no additional income from property, including rents from land owned or leased out, or from the sale of assets during the period covered.

They also reveal that the DUP leader made £300 in gift aid payments to charities including the NSPCC.

A spokesman for the DUP said: "Arlene published her 14/15 tax return to demonstrate how her tax is paid.

"We are satisfied that by doing so that she has given a lead in Northern Ireland politics in terms of openness and transparency."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt also published details of his financial affairs on Monday along with Green Party boss Steven Agnew.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he has instructed party accountants to publish his details, and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said he "will gladly publish my very boring tax returns".

Mr Nesbitt’s accounts included a self-assessment tax calculation for 2014-15 which shows his pay from all employment totalling more than £52,000 and tax amounting to £10,600.

He said he had "no difficulty" publishing his tax details and it had "become an issue of public concern and public interest" that political figures should be "open and transparent".

Mr Agnew revealed his self-assessment tax calculation for 2014-15 showing a salary of more than £47,000 and expenses totalling over £61,000.

“I am more than happy to publish my tax returns,” he said.

“It is essential that there is full financial transparency in political matters.”

He also revealed that he donated £5,224.44 to his own party.

Alliance Party leader David Ford confirmed he too will release his tax returns.

He said politicians should now also reveal details of party donors.

“If we are to improve the levels of confidence in the political system, then we need to let the public know who is funding our political parties,” he said.

“If the veil of secrecy is not lifted, suspicion will only continue to fester among the public,” he said.

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