Celebrities ‘hid £340m’ in Icebreaker tax avoidance scheme used by Gary Barlow

Former England manager Terry Venables and Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson alleged to be among 1,000 wealthy individuals who also poured money into discredited scheme

The tax avoidance scheme used by Gary Barlow and discredited by a judge last week was reportedly also deployed by around 1,000 other celebrities and wealthy people to shelter almost £340 million.

Take That star Barlow has faced calls from angry commentators – and Commons public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge – to give back his OBE, after it was revealed that the Icebreaker scheme allowed him, Howard Donald, Mark Owen and their band manager Jonathan Wild to shelter around £63 million from the taxman.

Last week Judge Colin Bishopp ruled that Icebreaker was primarily a tax avoidance scheme, not a system of commercial investments, and HM Revenue & Customs is now expected to demand repayment of the tax relief received.

According to reports in The Times, which first investigated the scheme in 2012, it was also used by the former Olympic hurdler and BBC pundit Colin Jackson and the former England manager Terry Venables

They were alleged to be among almost 1,000 rich individuals who tried to shelter £336 million between them.

The average investor to the scheme is expected to have to pay back £357,000 – but the Take That members, as the highest investors by far, are likely to have to repay much more. Jason Orange and Robbie Williams were not believed to have been involved in the scheme.

Some of the investors in Icebreaker have said they knew little about the mechanics of the scheme or the fact that an earlier partnership set up by the company was previously struck out by the courts in 2010, The Times reported.

Yet on Friday Judge Bishopp said the scheme “is, and was known and understood by all concerned to be, a tax avoidance scheme”. Many were also believed to have taken out insurance in the event that HMRC would decide to revoke the tax relief.

On Monday David Cameron said that such tax avoidance schemes were “wrong”, yet defended Barlow and said he should not have to return his OBE, given to him for services to the entertainment industry and to charity in November 2012.

The Prime Minister said: “Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country, he has raised money for charity, he has done very well for Children in Need, so I'm not sure. The OBE is in respect of that work and what he has done.”

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