Stony-hearted taxman gives Jagger and Co no satisfaction

The Government, despite its campaign to woo the music industry, yesterday went on the offensive against Britain's best-known band, the Rolling Stones.

As the group confirmed that they were cancelling their concerts in Britain this summer for tax reasons, Treasury sources joined fans in reacting with disbelief at the decision.

But in fact, Mick Jagger, who was being ridiculed with gusto yesterday by government MPs, privately wanted the shows to go on. In heated backstage arguments he was defeated by two of his fellow band members - Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood - who stood to lose millions of pounds in retrospective tax claims. Jagger is rich enough to stomach the tax loss, and Keith Richards is now an American citizen and does not even pay tax in Britain.

The four fiftysomething Stones devoted their monthly group meeting to matters fiscal exactly one month ago, in the middle of their world tour.

A technician on the tour had complained to Jagger that his accountant had told him he would face a retrospective tax demand following Labour's last budget.

The roadie was aggrieved because he and his 200 backstage colleagues - from roadies to hairdressers to drivers - had all been assured by the group that being on the road for a year would exempt them from paying British tax. It was to have been a tax-free year of hard work, maybe; parties, definitely; music and travel. Now, Gordon Brown's tax changes meant that appearing in Britain in 1998 would make them all liable for a retrospective tax bill on their earnings in America and Europe.

The Stones were sympathetic. They felt guilty that they had unintentionally misled their crew. And they began to worry about their own fortunes. Their own accountants had already mentioned the tax law changes to them; but the plight of their 200 staff now brought it home.

They could claim, their financial advisers told them, that the British leg of the tour would now lose pounds 12m instead of making a profit. Keith Richards knew that his own wallet would not be affected. Jagger could bear the loss. But Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood were furious. They urged postponing the British concerts until the following tax year.

Jagger, anticipating the fans' reaction and the political fallout, argued vigorously against it, but was outvoted. He swallowed hard, knowing he would inevitably be the band's spokesman when the news broke and he would face the obloquy.

The Stones' management informed the venues and promoters and briefed one newspaper on the unfairness to the tour crew of a retrospective tax bill. The press jumped on a story showing yet another failure of Tony Blair's Cool Britannia wooing of the music industry. OK, the Stones have not been cool for a few years, but they are still rock'n'roll, and their attack on the Treasury is embarrassing.

The Government was quick to hit back. Sources said that they were not prepared to be "lectured on tax by tax exiles" and warned that they were ready to draw unflattering comparisons between the Stones and other groups who were happy to play in the UK this summer.

The Tories, meanwhile, decided to use Jagger and co to highlight supposed iniquities of Labour's fiscal policy. Treasury spokesman David Heathcoat- Amory claimed: "It shows how shortsighted the government policy is, as it will hit British fans and prevent them from seeing a British band performing in their own country."

The Tories' culture spokesman, Richard Spring, said successful artists who returned to Britain under the Conservatives would now consider not playing here.

But not everyone saw it as politic to be a Stones fan. The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker - improbably enough a lead singer in a rock band himself - turned on them. The Lewes MP - who fronts an occasional rock band called the Reform Club - said: "I think it's outrageous that they're setting so much store on their tax returns. It shows they are clapped-out capitalists."

Who are these bands that the Treasury might use as examples to shame the Stones? The main one is likely to be the Spice Girls, young enough to be the Stones' daughters. Also on a world tour, they have already played British gigs and will be playing again at Wembley Stadium in September.

Yesterday, tax experts seemed to think the Stones had a point. John Whiting, of the accountants Price Waterhouse, said it was the tour crew who were being hit. He added: "This tax break has been cancelled retrospectively, and that is unreasonable."

Gary Jackson, of the celebrity accountants Arram Berlyn Gardner, added: "There will not be a huge exodus, but any major star organising a worldwide tour may well look to become non-resident in the UK."

Until the Budget on 17 March, Britons who lived and worked abroad for more than a year were exempt from British taxes on their earnings, as long as they did not spend more than 62 days in this country.

Business Outlook, page 19

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living