All musical tax avoiders eventually end up paying the piper
You have to hope Gary Barlow has Bono’s number to hand. This week’s news that the Take That singer and his bandmates were caught up in an alleged tax avoidance scheme was a reminder that pop and tax make for uncomfortable bedmates.
Like all of us on some level, pop stars resent paying tax. We all smiled along when The Beatles attacked the taxman with his “one for you, 19 for me” code.
But unlike most of us, pop stars can call on bean counters and advisers to find ways and means to avoid paying tax or reduce their tax liabilty.
Many British pop stars over the years have discovered they can use Ireland as a tax haven (though Irish pop stars, as we know, favour going Dutch). Acts such as Olly Murs, JLS and Cheryl Cole have shown a fondness for Ireland’s (ta)X Factor in recent times.
For the big acts, it’s a tricky game to play because of the national treasure thing. As Bono and co know only too well, the tax issue will be part of their narrative from now
until the end of time.
In the case of Take That and especially Barlow, their actions have opened a large can of worms. There are calls to take back the Order of the British Empire honour which the singer was awarded for his work for music and charity.
There have been attacks on him from attention-seeking politicians and pop stars such as Lily Allen.
Then, there’s the possible reaction from fans. As is the way with fans, many will be blind to this, but, as with U2, there will be a sizeable coterie of casual fans who will be turned off. Increasingly, any ambivalence about tax is seen as a bad thing. Still, there’s always the tax bill world tour to look forward to, heading for Croker in 2015. See Revolver, p28
Bono: knows all too well about the tax backlash