Tax That: David Cameron defends Gary Barlow

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Shake That: Cameron welcomes Barlow to Downing Street
Shake That: Cameron welcomes Barlow to Downing Street

David Cameron has defended the Tory-supporting pop star Gary Barlow, after he came under fire for allegedly avoiding millions of pounds in tax.

The prime minister said that while he was against "aggressive tax avoidance schemes" in principle he did not think Barlow should have to hand back his OBE.

"I don't think that's necessary frankly," he told ITV adding that "Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country."

He said the Take That star's charity work was a mitigating factor in the case.


"He's raised money for charity, he's done very well for Children in Need so I'm not sure [he should be stripped of] his OBE in respect of the work he has done," he told Good Morning Britain.

The prime minister has previously taken a hard line on celebrities accused of tax avoidance.

In 2012, he condemned comedian Jimmy Carr as "morally wrong" for seeking to avoid taxes.

However, he has been reluctant to intervene in the case of Barlow who is a prominent supporter of the Conservative party.

Cameron's comments follow a court ruling that a supposed investment scheme entered into by several members of Take That was actually for tax avoidance.

Judge Colin Bishopp ruled that 51 partnerships set up by Icebreaker Management were designed for avoiding tax.

"Icebreaker is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax-avoidance scheme," he said.

"The predominant purpose of entering the scheme was to achieve a tax saving."

Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Howard Donald and their manager Jonathan Wild, reportedly invested £66m in Icebreaker partnerships, billed as music-industry investment schemes.

There has been no new comment from Barlow. However spokespeople for the star have previously said that he pays a "significant" amount of tax.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have called for Barlow to be stripped of his OBE, awarded in 2012.

"People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped of their honours," Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke told the Times.

"People who don't pay the taxes that they should undermine the economy, damage our public services and place an extra, unfair burden on hard-working families and companies who play by the rules," Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said.

Barlow "might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE," Labour MP and chair of the public accounts committee Margaret Hodge added.

HMRC insisted they would continue to take a tough line against aggressive tax avoidance.

"HMRC has put in place generous reliefs to support genuine business investment and our tax reliefs for the creative industries work well, enabling the UK’s world-class film, television and video production companies to compete on the global stage," a spokesperson said.

"But we will not tolerate abuse of the system by people trying to dodge their tax obligations. HMRC will continue to challenge in the courts and anyone who engages in tax avoidance schemes risk not only the high cost of these schemes but also lay themselves open to penalties and, potentially, prosecution."

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