12 May 2014

Now tax what I call music – the fantasy festival line-up

Three members of Take That are reported to have invested in a tax avoidance scheme – so will they join our festival line-up of stars who, through schemes or leaving the country, have avoided tax?

Whether by moving country or through schemes and accountants, celebrities finding ways to avoid tax is not something new. See the line-up in our poster below, and an explanation of the circumstances for each act underneath.


Radio DJ Chris Moyles apologised in February after a tax tribunal judge ruled he had attempted to avoid up to £1m in tax through an avoidance scheme.

Tax scheme stage

Take That (not feat. Jason Orange and Robbie Williams)

Reports over the weekend that three members of the group face paying back tens of millions of pounds after a court ruled that 51 partnerships set up by Icebreaker Management were set up to secure tax relief.

Liberty X

All five members of Liberty X invested in Tower MCashback which the UK supreme court ruled was a tax avoidance scheme in 2011.

Willie Nelson

The country singer was hit by the IRS for $16.7m in 1990. Mr Nelson sued his accountants Price Waterhouse – arguing that they had put him into tax shelters that were later disallowed by the IRS. Price Waterhouse settled with Mr Nelson for an undisclosed amount. In order to settle his debt with the IRS, many of Mr Nelson’s possessions, including several houses, were sold. He released an album, The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories – with all profits going to the IRS. His debts were cleared after three years.

Exile Stage

Rolling Stones

In 1971 The Rolling Stones became England’s first musical tax exiles – moving to the south of France to avoid the Labour government’s high tax rate for top earners – and recorded Exile on Main Street.

David Bowie

In 1976, David Bowie moved to Switzerland to avoid the then 83 per cent income tax rate for the highest earners. He now lives in New York and London.


In 2006, U2 moved a company that deals with royalty payments to the Netherlands after the Irish government capped tax-free earnings for artists at €250,000.

Comedy stage

Jimmy Carr

Comedian Jimmy Carr apologised after it emerged in 2012 that he used the K2 tax shelter scheme. Mr Carr announced that he was no longer involved in the scheme, and said it was a “terrible error of judgement” to have used it.