1974 – Suit Leasing Scheme
In 1974 the UK’s top marginal tax rate of 83% applied to incomes over £20,000 (equivalent to £200,000 in 2018). In addition, passive investment income was hit with a 15% investment income surcharge which took the top rate to 98%. In 1974 750,000 people were in the 83% plus tax bracket.
During this time senior executives complained at the amount of pre-tax income they had to earn to afford the after tax cost of a new suit. With the 83% tax rate, purchasing a new three piece suit at the average cost of £45, required earning £265 in pre-tax wages. As a result, clever accountants started offering suit leasing schemes.
The suit leasing scheme involved the executive going to a tailor and having the employer purchase their suit. The employer would then lease the suit to the executive. This was tax effective as the employer would receive a tax deduction for the suit purchase, but the executive was only taxed on the value of the use of a second hand suit.
Made to measure suits naturally had limited use to others and therefore had a low second hand value. It worked extremely well with hugely fat, thin, or long limbed executives as their tailored suits had almost no value to anyone else.
"You’d be stupid not to try to cut your tax bill and those that don’t are stupid in business"
- Bono: U2