British MPs are calling for Gary Barlow to return his OBE, but Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he should keep it. The 43-year-old singer and his Take That bandmates Howard Donald and Mark Owen are accused of investing in a tax avoidance scheme.
According to reports, the former boyband members and their manager Jonathan Wild invested £66 million [approximately A$119 million] in two partnerships that were styled as music industry investment schemes, but, as a court ruling declared on May 10, were actually artificial tax shelters.
The partnerships were set up by Icebreaker Management, and have allowed the Take That singers to avoid around £63 million tax [A$113 million] from their world tours and CD sales.
It was revealed in 2012 that Barlow, Donald and Owen invested £63 million in the partnerships, though their lawyers claimed that they believed that they were legitimate investments, insisting that they all paid “significant tax.”
The singers, who are ordered to pay tens of millions of pounds in tax after the court ruling, refuse to comment on the scandal.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is chair of the Public Accounts Committee, told The Times that Barlow “might want to show a bit of contrition by giving back his OBE.”
Conservative Charlie Elphicke agreed, saying, “People who have seriously abused the tax system should be stripped off their honours.”
But while the PM is against “aggressive” tax avoiders, he doesn’t think Barlow should return his OBE.
“I have said on the issue of Gary Barlow’s OBE – where I think he was given that award for his services to music, his immense charity services with, for instance, Children in Need, the fact that he organised that fantastic concert for the Queen’s Jubilee – he deserved his OBE, and I think he should keep it,” Cameron told Sky News.
Barlow was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in June 2012 for his “services to music and to charity.”