Stones call off British leg of tour after pounds 10m tax wrangle

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The Independent Online
THE Rolling Stones last night called off the British leg of their world tour after a row with the Treasury over new tax laws that would cost them millions and cause the tour to run at a loss.

The shows - at Wembley, Sheffield and Edinburgh - have been moved to June 1999, three months into the new tax year.

This summer's concerts were postponed because more than pounds 10m of the band's earnings would have gone to the taxman, causing the tour to run at a loss.

The row was ignited by a decision by Gordon Brown in this year's Budget to change a loophole in the law that benefited people working overseas. Previously, those who lived and worked abroad for more than a year did not have to pay tax. The Inland Revenue said that the "media and entertainment personalities" had been the principal beneficiaries of the concession. However, aid workers and offshore oil workers will also be affected and some charities may suffer.

The Stones' lawyers have already complained about the new legislation to the Commons Finance Bill Committee saying they regard the legislation as retrospective since the band had embarked on the tour. Mick Jagger, who is rehearsing in Munich, said last night: "This wasn't some tax loophole, it's a scheme that was set up by Denis Healy, a Labour Chancellor, and has been in use for 20 years. We would have expected the new rules to have applied at the end of the year not to take effect in the middle."

The Bridges of Babylon tour began in America last September and finished before the current tax year. The European leg begins in Germany on Saturday but the band will avoid paying any tax by missing out its four British dates including two sell-out concerts at Wembley.

Jagger said: "If we did the UK shows it would have meant the entire European tour ran at a loss.

"I was tempted to bite the bullet, but I'm not the only one affected. A Rolling Stones world tour is a two-year project and over 200 people are involved."

Responding to the band's criticism a Treasury insider last night said: "We won't be lectured on tax policy by tax exiles."

t Tickets for this year's concerts will be honoured next year. The new 1999 dates are: Edinburgh, June 4; Sheffield, June 6; and Wembley, June 11 and June 12.