Celebrities monkey around with UK tax schemes

Cantillon: ‘secret database’ of aggressive tax planners leaked to British newspaper

On the same day that former Julius Baer private banker Rudolf Elmer had charges brought against him for allegedly handing over confidential data, on two CDs, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Times of London published a scoop showing celebrities using an aggressive tax scheme in the UK.

The scoop was based on a “secret database” leaked to the newspaper by sources concerned at the manipulation of the UK’s tax code and focused on the so-called Liberty scheme.

Among those who had made use of the scheme were, according to the newspaper, George Michael, all four members of the Arctic Monkeys, actor Michael Caine and a loan shark convicted of rape. Naturally the story, which is easily illustrated, got a lot of traction internationally.

It was more than helped by the fact Katie Melua, the bestselling singer who was named Christian Aid’s 2010 Tax Superhero because she is happy to pay tax so as to fund public services, was among the names contained in the database.

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Melua had sought to shelter £850,000 through the scheme in 2008, the newspaper said. Her lawyers responded she had acted on the advice of her accountants, but had in fact repaid the sheltered tax to the authorities, and had not avoided tax.

Stellar files

As the day wore on, the

Guardian

website revealed that it had details of the use of offshore locations by celebrities such as Mel Gibson and Mark Knopfler. The Jersey files hold details on more than 20,000 individuals and come from financial services firm Kleinwort Benson. They were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Washington DC, and shared with the

Guardian

. Inclusion on the file doesn’t mean you’ve been involved in tax evasion or avoidance, but will be use to draw attention to the offshore world.

One of these days we’ll have a database leaked on this side of the Irish Sea.

Ahem.

This article was edited on July 16th