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Published on May 13th, 2014 | by Catch21 Admin
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Should Gary Barlow give back his OBE?

He is one of the most beloved men in Britain and pop music. He has organised most notable charity events, such as the sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief. Now he is the subject of a political storm after being involved in a massive tax avoidance scheme. The English singer-songwriter, pianist, record producer, former X factor judge and Take That member, along with fellow Take That members Howard Donald, Mark Owen and their manager, Jonathan Wild, face having to pay tens of millions of pounds to the Revenue after a court decided that they were members of a massive tax avoidance scheme.

Judge Colin Bishopp ruled that 51 partnerships set up by Icebreaker Management were to secure tax relief for members and HM Revenue and Customs is now expected to demand repayment. It was alleged in 2012 that Barlow, Donald, Owen and Wild invested at least £26 million in a scheme run by Icebreaker Management. In the midst of the row, the scrutiny focused upon the most prolific member Gary Barlow, who owns an “order to the British Empire”, the most junior and most populous order of chivalry in the British and other Commonwealth honours systems. He was appointed an OBE in 2012 for services to music and charity. There is now a mutiny of pressure for him to be stripped from his title after being involved in the tax avoidance scheme.

Prime Minister David Cameron has commented on the issue rejecting calls for Take That singer Gary Barlow to hand back his OBE. In correlation, Cameron told The Times: “I am opposed to all aggressive tax avoidance. “The PM told ITV’s Good Morning: “Gary Barlow has done a huge amount for the country, he’s raised money for charity, he has done very well for Children in Need“. The OBE was in respect of that work and what he has done. “Clearly this scheme was wrong and it is right that they’re going to have to pay back the money”. What critics of the PM may point out that Gary Barlow is a prominent Conservative supporter. During the 2010 General Election campaign, Barlow appeared at a school staged campaign event to endorse the introduction of the programme by David Cameron.

In contempt of his support for the party, Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative MP who has campaigned against tax avoidance, said: “People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped of their honours”. Despite the PM’s support for Gary Barlow, he took a different approach against comedian Jimmy Carr several years ago for using a legal tax avoidance scheme which enabled him to pay as little as 1% tax on his earnings. Previous revocations of appointments for the Order of the British Empire have been made to senior figures, most recently Stuart Hall following conviction of indecent assault. Barlow has not been convicted for any wrongdoings, nevertheless, tax avoidance schemes is morally wrong. He cannot remain silent forever, after all, he’s ordered to pay a huge amount back. He can publically apologies and return the OBE. Labour’s Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee said Barlow “might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE“.

Conversely, because of the support from the Prime Minister and the tax avoidance scheme was legal, he is not in the position to be stripped from his honour. However, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander emphasised that tax avoidance schemes demands an “unfair burden on hard-working families and companies who play by the rules.” Gary Barlow has raised millions for charity, now he is forced to raise a possible higher estimate for his wrongs. This suggests that another, and probably unnecessary Take That world tour to be organised to pay off the heavy burden. Therefore, it may be beneficial for Gary Barlow to give up his OBE in order to recover his public image and attract future crowds to his concerts. Nevertheless, if the Take That trio and their manager can pay off the hefty deficit in a quick succession without organising a major event, therefore, he may be entitled to keep his achievement.

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

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