UK Rock Stars Who Dodge Taxes Being Outed

The UK has a long history of gouging rock stars for taxes.  Take the case of the Rolling Stones, who moved to France in order to escape an 83% tax rate.  The result was Exile on Mainstreet.  

Bowie moved to Switzerland for much the same reason.  Members of Pink Floyd all left the UK for a year to avoid getting soaked.  Bad Company, Rod Stewart, even Cat Stevens bailed on the UK rather than give more than 80% of their income to the government.  

More recently, U2 moved their business dealings out of Ireland to the much more tax-friendly confines of the Netherlands.

Hell, if you spent your entire life trying to become successful, wouldn’t you want to keep as much money as you could for yourself?  I would.

I’m all for minimizing taxes–which, please note is much, much different than avoiding taxes.  If the law of the land offers ways for individuals to minimize the amount of tax they pay, then there’s no reason that someone shouldn’t take advantage of these legal and lawful avenues.  

It’s why we contribute to RRSPs, RESPs, TFSAs, pensions, give charitable donations, make political contributions, take medical and education deductions and all the other similar financial devices.

But rich rock stars are an easy target.  Several UK personalities have been outed by the British press for dodging taxes.  The current list includes Mick Jagger (a non-UK resident for the past 40 years, all for tax reasons) and Bob Geldof (owners of homes in the name of an overseas company).

It’s estimated that dodges such as these cost Her Majesty’s Treasury £1 billion a year.

Yes, it’s easy to say that such people are not paying their fair share, but they’re smart folks.  They have people who help them protect their wealth in legal ways.  But because they have lots of money–and because the way they shelter their cash is mostly unavailable to regular folk–you can see where the criticisms come in.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “UK Rock Stars Who Dodge Taxes Being Outed

  • March 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm


    As some might agree with this, and others against, I think U2's The Edge said it best this past year, when one of the major US newspapers launched an attack on the band regarding taxes. Edge noted that the band has been paying taxes for many years from concert revenues (ticket sales, merchandise, other forms of payment), so their decisions to move monies to more friendly locations is a very smart business move. Personally, I was born and raised up until the age of 15 in the UK (Belfast, Northern Ireland), and cannot believe how outrageous it is to try and live there now. To tax income at 80 plus percent is ridiculous, unfair, and downright greed in my opinion.

    Cheers and thanks for the space,


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