There remains outrage that Gary Barlow the Take That star, along with some other celebrities, had invested in excess of £60 million in a tax avoidance scheme that was ruled unlawful. Barlow’s taken the brunt of it, mostly because of his OBE from the Queen and political connections, with headlines full of venom and fury. But is Gary to blame? I think not.
Governments of all political persuasions have over the years and continue to shout from the top of Downing Street that ‘Britain is open for business’ and a ‘haven for inward investment’.
They shout so loudly because Britain rightly wants to attract investment and jobs into our economy. How do they do this? Well, amongst other things, the Treasury ensures there is a competitive tax regime for wealthy individuals and businesses.
Individuals have been allowed to register themselves as limited companies for years all with the sole aim of paying a lower rate of tax. This is with no stigma; no public outrage.
There is a multi billion pound industry built up around tax accountants whose sole reason-for-being is to take advantage of the competitive tax regime. These businesses employ thousands of people in pursuit of getting the best deal for their clients. So why should we be so surprised Gary Barlow and others employed one of these accountants for advice and then took it?
If any government wants to curtail investment into Britain, make us a less attractive place to do business and create wealth then perhaps they should close all the loopholes and make it impossible to ‘hide money’ overseas, create trust funds or invest in the numerous schemes such as the one Gary Barlow entered into?
I suspect for all the bluster and outrage from politicians (some more vocal than others) about Gary's tax affairs, the loopholes are here to stay because closing them will cost the country far more in the long run.