Comedian in tax avoidance tempest

By Paul Harper

British comedian Jimmy Carr has apologised for using a legal tax avoidance scheme after the British Prime Minister slammed his actions as "morally wrong".

Stand-up comedian Carr - famous for his short, snappy jokes and star of shows 8 Out of 10 Cats , Distraction and 10 o'clock Live - has been exposed as the biggest beneficiary of the K2 scheme.

The Times reported Carr channelled money through to the Jersey-based company K2, which then loaned the money back to Carr, so as to avoid paying income tax.

It was reported Carr had only paid roughly 1 percent tax on his £3.3 million (NZ$6.54 million) a year income.

While the scheme has been slammed as unfair, it is not illegal.

Carr, who has in past blasted bankers for not paying their fair share of tax, was prompted to apologise after Cameron told ITV News schemes such as the one Carr had exploited was "morally wrong".

"People work hard, they pay their taxes, they save up to go to one of his shows. They buy the tickets. He is taking the money from those tickets and he, as far as I can see, is putting all of that into some very dodgy tax avoiding schemes.

"That is wrong. There is nothing wrong with people planning their tax affairs to invest in their pension and plan for their retirement - that sort of tax management is fine."

However Cameron would not extend that criticism to former Take That singer Gary Barlow, who was involved in a similar scheme.

"I am not going to give a running commentary on different people's tax affairs. I don't think that would be right," Cameron told a press conference.

"I made an exception yesterday because it was a very specific case where the details seemed to have been published and it was a particularly egregious example of an avoidance scheme that seemed to me to be wrong and I made that point."

Last night New Zealand time, Jimmy Carr apologised to his more than 2.3 million Twitter followers.

"I appreciate as a comedian, people will expect me to 'make light' of this situation, but I'm not going to in this statement as this is obviously a serious matter."

"I met with a financial advisor and he said to me 'Do you want to pay less tax? It's totally legal.' I said 'Yes.'

"I now realise I've made a terrible error of judgement.

"Although I've been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), I'm no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone. Jimmy Carr"

Later, Carr tweeted the situation was "obviously serious", but would be recording comedy panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats later that day, which he presents.

"So it's business as usual. I've dished it out enough times let's see if I can take it."

Watch a Jimmy Carr piece from last February where he lays into bank greed:

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 20 Apr 2014 08:07:34 Processing Time: 1089ms