Stones roll into row over tax loophole

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The Independent Online
IN A blatant case of Gimme Tax Shelter, the Rolling Stones complained to Parliament yesterday about a plan by the Treasury to close a loophole which will mean overseas earnings being taxed.

It would seem that life on the road is no longer groupies, trashed hotel rooms and rioting fans for the Stones any more. Instead the fifty-something millionaires live a kind of Tax Exile on Main Street where accountants work out the band's Foreign Earnings Deduction (FED).

Now one of those advisers has written to the Commons Finance Bill Committee, which is considering Gordon Brown's Budget and a measure that would end the deduction. This allows all Britons working abroad to avoid paying tax while out of the country.

The Rolling Stones' tax adviser, Joyce Smyth, and the Conservative Party, which released the letter, claimed that the real victims of the proposed change would be the stage hands, hairdressers and electricians who accompany bands on tour.

In fact the big losers will be the Stones band-members themselves. Their multi-million-pound fees for the world tour will be hit because the Government plans to back-date the measure to Budget day - 17 March.

The plan was being discussed by the Finance Committee yesterday, but Ms Smyth disclosed that she has been writing to the Government for some months on the subject and that band-members have made representations to the Government.

Ms Smyth wrote: "My clients fully understand that it is the Government's policy to introduce anti-avoidance measures and to close tax 'loopholes'.

"What we consider deeply unjust, however, is the retrospective nature of this particular change."

The Conservative Party quite wisely claimed that the changes would also affect charity aid workers on overseas postings and named Save the Children as concerned about the changes. The party realised that, all in all, there probably isn't that much Sympathy for the Rich Devils.

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