Britain's biggest taxpayers revealed: Bet365 boss tops list

Britain’s biggest taxpayers revealed: Bet365 founder Denise Coates tops list for second year in a row after paying £573m to HMRC as JK Rowling, Sir James Dyson, Ed Sheeran and bosses of Betfred also make top 50

  • The Bet365 founder and family, who are worth £7.166bn, paid £573million tax
  • Distillery mogul Glenn Gordon came in second with a tax bill of £436.4million
  • Sir James Dyson also featured on the Sunday Times Tax List 2021 in sixth place
  • Celebrities including JK Rowling and Ed Sheeran also ranked among top 50 

Gambling mogul Denise Coates was Britain’s biggest taxpayer for the second year running, according to the annual ranking of contributors to the public purse.

The Bet365 founder and her family, who are worth £7.166bn, stumped up an eye-watering £573million tax bill.  

Glenn Gordon, whose distillery empire has netted his family a £3.186bn fortune, came in second with tax liabilities of £436.4million. 

Sir James Dyson also featured on the Sunday Times Tax List 2021 in sixth place after pouring £115million into the Treasury coffers – £12million more than the year before.

The Brexiteer vacuum tycoon, who topped the 2020 rich list with his £16.2billion fortune, announced he was relocating Dyson’s head office to Singapore in 2019.

Celebrities including JK Rowling and Ed Sheeran were also ranked in the top 50 taxpayers, who on average paid less than the year before.

Scroll down for the full list 


Gambling mogul Denise Coates (left) was Britain’s biggest taxpayer for the second year running. Britain’s richest man Sir James Dyson (right) also featured on the Sunday Times Tax List 2021 in sixth place after pouring £115million into the Treasury coffers – £12million more than the year before

The list, which mostly covers business and personal tax exposure to the end of 2019, shows the amount of tax taken from Britain’s super-rich fell sharply even before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

The wealthy needed to contribute £13.1million to make it into the top 50 of this year’s list, down from £20.4million the year before, a 36 per cent drop.  

Harry Potter author Rowling fell from 19th to 23rd in this year’s rankings, with her tax liabilities dropping from £48.6million to £34.8million.

It comes as the world-famous writer’s earnings dropped from an estimated £100 million last year to £72.5million as theatres and theme parks closed. 

Sheeran is the most high-profile new entry to the tax list, ranking 32nd with tax payments of £28.2million.


Celebrities including JK Rowling and Ed Sheeran were also noted for pumping millions into the Exchequer

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley climbed one place in the rankings to 12th, despite his tax liabilities dropping by £8.8million to £46million.

Meanwhile, Sir Philip Green dropped out of the top 50 list as his Arcadia retail empire fell into administration.

Sir Philip and his wife Lady Tina Green were ranked 23rd in last year’s list with a tax liability of £44.4million.

The list’s top 50 wealthy individuals or families were liable for around £3.18billion of tax this year, up 27 per cent from £2.5billion last year.

But this is due to tax paid on £982.5million of dividends to shareholders in the William Grant whisky conglomerate, and a change in the list’s methodology, which now counts gambling duties paid by betting businesses.

Without these two factors, this year’s total tax liability of the top 50 would be £700 million less, and below last year’s figure of £2.5billion. 

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley climbed one place in the rankings to 12th, despite his tax liabilities dropping by £8.8million to £46million

Robert Watts, compiler of the tax list, said: ‘These worrying numbers show the tax taken from many of Britain’s super-rich has fallen sharply, largely because their businesses have seen a downturn.’

Institute for Public Policy Research executive director Carys Roberts said the UK tax system was ‘no longer fit for purpose’.

She said: ‘Last year’s rich list identified the UK’s 10 richest people and families, yet only two of them are listed among the 10 who paid most taxes in the last financial year.

‘These glaring gaps show that our current tax system is no longer fit for purpose, it’s just too easy for some of the UK’s richest people to avoid paying taxes in the way that most ordinary families have to.’

The annual survey examines the taxes due on business profits, share sales, dividend income, and, where known, personal income through salaries. 

How the ‘local girl done good’ went from a portable cabin office to become UK’s biggest taxpayer

Denise Coates spotted the potential of the internet to turn her family’s chain of betting shops into a global success 20 years ago

Denise Coates bought the domain name bet365 on eBay in 2001 for £20,000 and began operating a dot.com betting business from a portable cabin in Stoke. 

Ms Coates completed the move from the portable cabin office, borrowing £15m from the Royal Bank of Scotland secured on her family’s estate of betting shops. And the move paid off.  

Ms Coates is now the majority shareholder in Bet365, a global company which has benefited from tighter regulations on the industry in other countries. 

In 2017, the former University of Sheffield student who graduated with a first class degree, was paid £265million. 

In 2019, that figure jumped to £323million.  

The bulk of her pay increase was due to a jump the salaries her company decided to pay out in 2018. It increased overall wages from £490m to £646m.  

The business said it had ‘increased remuneration for individuals that have been key to the development of the overarching corporate strategy’.

She then took a large share of the £90m paid out in dividends, £80m of which went to four directors of the company, which include Mrs Coates.

Ms Coates and her husband remain fiercely private and refuse to discuss their private lives, or backgrounds.

The pair set up a £185million charitable foundation funding a variety of worthy causes at home and overseas. It provides bursaries for less well-off students, supports a hospice for cancer sufferers and has helped victims of natural disasters. 

They have one child of their own and adopted four girls from the same family. 

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