Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King has said it would be "depressing" if bankers choose to defer their bonuses until after the introduction of the new 45p income tax rate.

And he warned the banks that they risk provoking anger from the rest of society if they take the step to dodge paying tax on their bonuses at the current 50p top rate.

Reports have suggested that banks including Goldman Sachs are considering delaying bonuses until after April 6 to take advantage of the cut in the rate announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last year's budget.

The move could cost the Treasury millions of pounds.

Asked about the reports, Sir Mervyn told the House of Commons Treasury Committee: "I find it a bit depressing that people who earn so much seem to think it is even more exciting to adjust the timing of it to get the benefit of a lower tax rate... knowing that this must have an impact on the rest of society, when even now it is the rest of society which is suffering most from the consequences of the crisis.

"I don't know what will happen, and they haven't made any statement, but I think it will be clumsy and lacking in care and attention to how other people might react.

"In the long run, financial institutions ... do depend on goodwill from the rest of society. They can't just exist on their own."

Sir Mervyn said that it would not be "unlawful" for banks to defer bonus payments in this way.

The reported move by Goldman Sachs was also condemned by the chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge.

"What we are seeing now is the immoral situation whereby people who earn a lot of money just believe it's cool not to pay tax," she told The Times. "It fails to understand the importance of everyone contributing to the common good and Goldman Sachs just don't get it. They feel no responsibility for paying their fair share of tax."