Gary Barlow's 'aggressive' tax avoidance criticised by David Cameron

David Cameron has joined a chorus of criticism against Take That frontman Gary Barlow after a court decided he was part of a multi-million pound tax avoidance scheme.

Mr Barlow, a Conservative Party supporter, and his band mates Howard Donald, Mark Owen and their manager Jonathan Wild face having to repay tens of millions of pounds to HM Revenue & Customs after a judge ruled that they had invested £66million in a tax-avoidance scheme. 

Asked about the case by The Times, the Prime Minister said: “I am opposed to all aggressive tax avoidance.”

In 2012, when it was first alleged that the pop star had invested in a massive tax avoidance scheme, Mr Cameron refused to offer any criticism – despite having described comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax arrangements as “morally wrong” just weeks before.

Margaret Hodge, the chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said that Barlow “might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE”.

While Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “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.”

Their £66m investment in Icebreakers partnerships were billed as music-industry investment schemes. But on Friday Judge Colin Bishopp ruled that Icebreaker was a tax-avoidance scheme and HMRC is now expected to demand repayment of the tax relief.

The judge said: “Icebreaker is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax-avoidance scheme. The predominant purpose of entering the scheme was to achieve a tax saving.”

None of the 51 Icebreaker partnerships made a profit despite supposedly investing in a range of artists, some of them new and others well-established.

At least £300m was placed in the scheme, set up by the company Icebreaker Management, and the average investor is now expected to have to pay back £357,000. The Take That stars are likely to have to repay much more, though not Jason Orange nor Robbie Williams as neither is believed to have been involved in the scheme.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “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.

“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.”

There was no immediate comment from Take That members but statements previously made on their behalf have said they made significant tax and did not believe they were taking part in tax-avoidance.

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