A number of high profile British public figures including all four members of Arctic Monkeys, George Michael and Sir Michael Caine have been named amongst 1,600 people who collectively tried to hide £1.2 billion (AU$2.18 billion) in a tax avoidance scheme.
According to The Times Arctic Monkeys members Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O’Malley and Matt Helders reportedly each paid between AU$69,000 and AU$152,000 in fees to the Liberty tax strategy to protect between AU$1 million and AU$2 million between 2005 and 2009.
The band declined to comment to the newspaper about the allegations. George Michael reportedly sought to shelter AU$11 million in record and tour sales after paying AU$805,000 in fees to Mercury Tax Group, the Leeds-based company that ran the scheme.
The Times claimed the names were revealed in a secret Liberty database that was leaked to them. Also implicated is singer Katie Melua, who allegedly sought to shelter AU$1.5 million through Liberty in 2008, two years before she was nominated for Christian Aid’s Tax Superhero Award after publicly stating that she paid “nearly half of what comes to me in taxes”.
Melua’s lawyers told The Times she had invested in Liberty at the suggestion of her accountants but later repaid the sheltered tax. Actor Sir Michael Caine, Take That star Gary Barlow and a number of high profile businessmen, lawyers, doctors and a judge were also reportedly named in the database.
According to Billboard, England’s Revenue & Customs has spent more than a decade investigating the Liberty scheme, and will challenge its legality in court next March. However, under new Treasury rules due to be brought in this month, the members of the scheme may have to pay back hundreds of millions of pounds in disputed tax before that time.