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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high