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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform