Melua, Norton vs. Geldof, Bono

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The Georgian-born singer Katie Melua is a wealthy woman: last year she was listed as being worth £18m in the UK Young People's Rich List. This is what she had to say about tax in a recent interview.

"I have dual nationality and I was advised early on that I could take advantage of that and put some earnings offshore to avoid tax. But I really didn't want to get involved with any complexity - I prefer to be as simple as I can. I want to spend my life making music, not having to take advice from accountant every day. I pay nearly half of what comes to me in taxes, but I know I'm paying to live in a country with lots of amazing qualities. I have seen what it is like living in a country where people don't pay tax and have poor services in terms of health and education."

Well done her. We really applaud this. Now look at two other musicians, Bob Geldof and Bono. A 2006 story about Bob Geldof:

"Land Registry documents show that his luxury apartment in Battersea, South London, is owned by a company called Quiet Ventures, while Davington Priory, a mansion near Faversham, Kent, is owned by Bandol Holdings. Both companies are registered in the British Virgin Islands and have London contact addresses linked to Geldof's accountants, O.J. Kilkenny. As Geldof is a non-domiciled taxpayer, it means the houses - together worth an estimated £4m - would avoid the normal inheritance tax of 40%, or £1.6m."

Bono (otherwise known as Paul Hewson). This, also in 2006:

"Irish politicians have expressed surprise at U2's decision to move part of its multi-million pound operation from Ireland to Amsterdam. The tax rate on royalty earnings in the Netherlands - where many of the Rolling Stones' assets are based - is only a few per cent."

Yet Bono and Geldof are hailed as saviours of the world, and Melua isn't. It's a topsy turvy world indeed. Perhaps it's time for a ranking of musicians according to their tax-dodging credentials.

We'll leave you with the words of another well-known British celebrity, Graham Norton.

"People like Bono really annoy me. He goes to hell and back to avoid paying tax. He has a special accountant. He works out Irish tax loopholes. And then he's asking me to buy a well for an African village. Tarmac the road outside your house, you tight-wad! Or pay for a school in Ireland. I've never met Bono and now I probably never will. But if I do meet him I'll ask him because I think it's a really hard thing to justify. I pay a lot of tax. By most people's standards I am rich so I should pay my tax because I can afford it. When I didn't want to pay it was when I didn't have any money.

NB: Reposted from the Tax Justice Network blog