George Michael and Michael Caine accused of tax avoidance through Liberty scheme

Gary Barlow and members of the Arctic Monkeys are also thought to have been involved with the tax strategy

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The Independent Online

George Michael, Sir Michael Caine and four members of the Arctic Monkeys have been accused of avoiding taxes through an investment scheme called Liberty.

Other investors in the Leeds-based tax strategy include Gary Barlow, Katie Melua, Anne Robinson and Paul Nicholson, a loan shark convicted of rape. They are among more than 1,600 who allegedly tried to shelter £1.2billion, making it one of the biggest known tax avoidance schemes.

The firm generated large artificial losses offshore and allowing them to avoid taxes on other income.

HM Revenue & Customs have been investigating Liberty for a decade, which is legal, but the case will go to court in March next year.

Under George Osborne’s new rules, investors will be forced to pay back supposed bills before the scheme is challenged in court. Their money will be refunded if the HMRC lose.

Melua – who was nominated for Christian Aid’s 2008 Tax Superhero Award – sought to shelter £850,000 through Liberty, while Michael tried to shelter £6.2 million in record and tour sales. A spokesperson for Michael gave a “no comment”, when approached by The Independent.

Caine attempted to shelter at least £600,000, according to documentation obtained by The Times.

Gary Barlow - who has already faced backlash for his involvement in tax avoidance scheme Icebreaker earlier this year – invested £4.46million in Liberty. Anne Robinson invested £4 million in the initiative.

Spokespeople for Barlow and the Arctic Monkeys declined to comment, while spokespeople for Robinson and Caine could not be reached.

Melua’s lawyers told The Times that although she had invested in Liberty following advice from her accountants, she has since repaid the sheltered taxes.

Although the HMRC doesn’t “comment on individual cases”, it is also also investigating the workings of another scheme called Ingenious Media – a film investment firm, which will go to tribunal in November. Investors include David Beckham, Steve Gerrard and Wayne Rooney.

Beckham’s publicist, Simon Oliviera, denied that the retired footballer had ever avoided tax.

"We don’t discuss the private financial matters of our clients, however as we have said on many occasions the Beckhams have always paid their taxes in full and have never been involved in aggressive tax avoidance schemes," he told The Independent. "They have also been long-time supporters of the creative industries and made a number of successful investments over the years."

Spokespeople for Gerrard and Rooney could not be reached.