Extinction Rebellion is paying activists up to £400 a week to lead the protests that have brought chaos to the streets of Britain, documents seen by The Mail on Sunday reveal.
Protesters have received payments totalling more than £70,000 in four months alone.
But the eco-protest group privately fears it could face a six-figure tax bill if the money, which is given as expenses, is deemed to be payment for work done on XR's behalf.
Last night, one Tory MP called on HMRC to launch an immediate investigation into the movement's tax affairs.
Most of the thousands of activists who brought chaos to London last week were unpaid volunteers, but a select number are claiming the funds which enable them to dedicate their efforts to the protest group, also known as XR.
This newspaper has seen claims for expenses from 168 activists, including Tamsin Omond, a baronet's granddaughter who has appeared in Tatler and rubbed shoulders with Boris Johnson – and who asked for money after ditching some public relations clients to concentrate on protests.
A dossier of files from within XR reveals the inner workings of the protest movement and its finances.
They show how:
- Activists have been paid more than £200,000 since the start of the scheme;
- The cost of the payments is increasing by 'at least £40,000 a month';
- Activists are targeting 'high net worth individuals' for more funds;
- They spent £5,000 on a camping tour of Europe for key members.
The revelations come as the number of activists arrested in the current XR protests approaches 1,300.
A document entitled Finance Policy And Processes seen by this newspaper in a 'work in progress' version states: 'The maximum claim for volunteer living expenses is £400 a week (or £200 for someone volunteering part-time). No more should be claimed than a volunteer needs to cover basic living expenses.'
The document states that claims 'may cover a maximum period of four weeks', but adds: 'Further applications may be made to cover additional periods of time.'
Tamsin Omond claimed a total of £1,340 for November and December last year. Educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge, the granddaughter of Dorset baronet Sir Thomas Lees is an actor who also works in public relations, and chooses to use gender-neutral pronouns, including Mx in place of Ms or Mr.
Mx Omond's expenses claim was based on being out of pocket after giving up some clients to spend more time campaigning.
Mx Omond offered to give up commercial work altogether to focus more on XR, but asked for at least £800 a month to cover housing, food and transport in that case.
Film-maker Joel Scott-Halkes has received up to £800 a month after deciding to give up working to become a full-time activist.
Gail Bradbrook, the self-proclaimed 'neo-pagan' who was inspired to create the eco-protest group after taking psychedelic drugs, requested payments of £600 a month this year. And XR co-founder Roger Hallam asked for £300 a week.
But XR's documents raise concerns about the fact that it has paid no tax or National Insurance on these sums, and questioned the employment status of activists.
A document dated August 13, 2019 addresses the fear that HMRC is likely to 'crawl all over us' and that in 'the worst case scenario' the sum payable, including fines, is 'probably in the range £150,000 to £200,000'. Plans have been drawn up to remind volunteers that they are responsible for their own tax affairs.
It is not yet clear whether XR have contacted HMRC to admit their concerns or whether the taxman has moved to recover any tax that may be due from XR.
Last night, Tory MP David Davies called for an immediate investigation, saying: 'It is utterly outrageous if Extinction Rebellion is not paying its fair share of tax.
'These self-appointed, holier- than-thou guardians of the planet may think they are somehow above the law but they are not. What's needed now is a root-and-branch investigation of how this organisation operates, starting with an immediate inquiry into its tax affairs. I shall be writing to HMRC tomorrow to demand nothing less.'
Compassionate Revolution, the registered company used for XR activity, has £371,000 in the bank.
Crowdfunding for the 'October Rebellion' currently stands at £859,534 and XR's fundraising efforts have brought in more than £2.5 million in the past year.
Major donors include rock band Radiohead, which gave £250,000, and City billionaire Sir Christopher Hohn, who gave £50,000.
Oil mogul John Paul Getty's granddaughter part-funded a donation of £330,000 though the Climate Emergency Fund.
A designated group of activists has been set up to target further 'major donors and high net worth individuals'.
With a growing pot of funds, XR has financed new projects, including £5,000 for a group to tour Europe 'camping and connecting to nature and with each other'. They are also considering spending £3 million on a restructure.
XR said last night: 'We have sought professional advice on financial support and expenses to volunteers. That advice is that in most cases no tax is payable and, where it is, those of us who receive financial support or expenses will be advised to declare income in our tax returns.
'From the advice we received it doesn't look like we'll have a liability to HMRC. It is our aim to be free from hierarchy.'
Find some poor people...we're too white and middle class
Extinction Rebellion activists have drawn up plans to attract activists who are 'poor' and from ethnic minorities in a bid to change the white, middle-class make-up of the movement.
A document seen by The Mail on Sunday reveals that members have considered an 'announcement to the working class'.
The proposed text says: 'Are you working class? We need you! We are incredibly keen to increase the socio-economic diversity of XR. If you are poor or working class and already a member, please get in touch,' with an email address underneath.
Minutes from last month's meeting of the group's head 'Anchor' group highlighted 'a lack of representation from disabled people and people of colour'.
In a June proposal to reach out to marginalised London communities, one member wrote: 'XR has been following the conventional model of virtue signalling ('yes, we agree working people are oppressed etc') and tokenism ('we need to get more black people into working groups' – as if this is just a matter of ordering them out of catalogue).'
The member bemoaned 'the almost complete absence of working-class people in the London office and the massive representation of Oxbridge graduates'.
Another activist says the movement 'needs to sound less hippy', while others fear the group's aim of mass arrests will alienate ethnic minority communities who historically suffered racial injustice at the hands of the police. One document admits this has caused an issue in the public perception of the group.
It said: 'If you were to come to our actions and only walk straight up to the people being arrested on the front line, such as the affinity group members blocking the bridges on Rebellion Day, you'd probably end up seeing the same type of people.
'This is where you'd likely see the 'stereotype' of XR: white, British national, middle-aged or a pensioner, middle-class, educated, and probably a Left-leaning Guardian reader.'
The documents also reveal that children are viewed as a key target for the organisation in winning support for their radical demands.
Spokesman Rupert Read published an online pamphlet in August which claimed: 'Imagine an October with tens of thousands of children and students on the streets of London.'
The protest group said last night: 'It is important that there is conflict within Extinction Rebellion over lack of diversity. We live in a racist system, and Extinction Rebellion and the people within it are not separate from that system.'