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10 stars' tax tactics that hit headlines in 2012
by Amy Rowe on Nov 20, 2012 at 13:20
As HM Revenue & Customs launches an advertising campaign to encourage people to come clean about their tax affairs, we take a look at 10 famous people whose tax arrangements have come under scrutiny over the past year...
No laughing matter
Comedian Jimmy Carr has had a difficult year. First he was accused of being involved in the Jersey-based K2 tax scheme, which allowed him to reduce his effective rate of income tax to as low as 1.25%.
To add insult to injury, he was lambasted by prime minister David Cameron.
Former England manager Terry Venables reportedly scored an own goal when he used Icebreaker Management Services. While HMRC argued Icebreaker and similar schemes caused ‘unacceptable tax losses’, the scheme providers countered that they were perfectly legal.
Going for gold
Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson, who now works as a sports commentator for the BBC, was also reported to have used Icebreaker to offset tax.
Tax that and party
Shortly after HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) slammed the brakes on Carr’s tax vehicle, three members of Take That and their manager were accused of investing £26 million in an investment scheme the taxman was trying to close down.
Gary Barlow, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and manager Jonathan Wild were among 1,000 people reported to have contributed a total of £480 million to 62 music industry partnerships. HMRC said the companies, overseen by Icebreaker Management Services, were tax shelters.
The lawyers for all four hit back, saying they all believed their investments were tied up in legitimate schemes.
Former Watchdog and Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson was named among 2,000 investors in the now-defunct Liberty scheme.
Robinson was alleged to have avoided paying tax on around £4 million, according to an investigation by The Times.
Liberty worked by buying and selling dividends offshore to generate artificial losses that members could offset against their tax bills. Robinson was understood to have paid £280,000 in fees to use the Jersey-based scheme.
The scheme, run by Mercury Tax Strategies and used by higher-rate tax payers, is being brought to tribunal by HMRC.
A celebrity of the financial world, Towry chief executive Andrew Fisher said he regretted investing in a film scheme after it emerged it was the subject of an HMRC inquiry.
Fisher was reported to be among 12 people who invested a total of £57 million in an unnamed film and music-related scheme in June.
Fisher told The Times: ‘If I had known the legitimacy of this investment was going to be questioned, I would not have entered into it. To date, to the best of my knowledge, I have received no tax rebates or benefits from this investment.’
On yer bike
Earlier this month, Bradley Wiggins, or Wiggo as he is affectionately known, pulled out of a scheme based in the Cayman Islands. The Olympic champion of cycling and sideburns told The Guardian he had had a ‘small investment’ in Twofold First Services but had not claimed any tax relief.
Following bad press, he exited the scheme faster than you can say ‘Tour de France and Olympic gold medallist all in one year’.
Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles was recently accused of investing in an ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance scheme in 2009. Moyles’ alleged involvement in the Rushmore strategy only came to light recently after an inquiry into documents that were filed two years late by the star.
This time it’s personal
Also at the Beeb, presenters Jeremy Paxman, Emily Maitlis and Antique Roadshow’s Fiona Bruce are among stars thought to have been paid via personal services companies, which can allow individuals to pay corporation tax of 21% rather than higher-rate income tax.
Man vs tax
As a nation, we’ve grown to treasure ex-marine Bear Grylls’ penchant for increasingly inventive ways of avoiding self-inflicted death.In October it was reported that Grylls was among a host of celebrities and businessmen to have invested £110 million in underwater treasure hunts, which allegedly allowed them to avoid tax on millions of pounds.
Under the scheme, a complex loan arrangement reportedly allowed some investors to claim tax relief worth up to double the sum they put up in cash.