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PM declines to take Barlow tax bait
Jimmy Carr has apologised over an 'error of judgment' regarding tax issues
David Cameron has defended wading into the row over Jimmy Carr's tax affairs after the comedian admitted he had made a "terrible error of judgment".
But the Prime Minister declined to criticise Take That singer Gary Barlow, who has also been accused of using a complex scheme to avoid paying millions of pounds to HM Revenue & Customs.
Carr bowed to pressure by releasing a statement apologising for his actions. He said: "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."
The comedian continued: "I met with a financial adviser 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 judgment. Although I've been advised the K2 Tax scheme is entirely legal, and has been fully disclosed to HMRC, I'm no longer involved in it and will in future conduct my financial affairs much more responsibly. Apologies to everyone."
Speaking to ITV News during a visit to Mexico, Mr Cameron joined a chorus of criticism of the comedian, whose tax arrangements were disclosed in The Times on Tuesday. Describing them as "straightforward tax avoidance", the PM said it was unfair on the people who pay to watch the comic perform that he is not paying his taxes in the same way that they do. He said: "I think some of these schemes - and I think particularly of the Jimmy Carr scheme - I have had time to read about and I just think this is completely wrong."
It has been alleged that Take That stars Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen, and the band's manager Jonathan Wild, invested at least £26 million in a scheme run by Icebreaker Management Services - which says it works within the law. But Mr Cameron has refused to criticise Barlow, who recently received an OBE.
"I am not going to give a running commentary on different people's tax affairs. I don't think that would be right," the premier said at a press conference in Downing Street. "I made an exception 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."
But shadow leader of the house Angela Eagle questioned Mr Cameron's decision to speak out about Carr's tax arrangements while remaining silent about those of other high profile figures. She said: "Oddly, (Mr Cameron) did not take the opportunity to condemn as morally repugnant the tax avoidance scheme used by Conservative supporter Gary Barlow, who has given a whole new meaning to the phrase Take That."
Meanwhile, Carr faces merciless teasing from his 8 Out Of 10 Cats team-mates after dominating the headlines this week over his tax affairs. Carr will front the Channel 4 comedy panel game for the first time since the news broke about him using a complex scheme to avoid paying HM Revenue and Customs.
Team captain Sean Lock wades in by telling Carr: "We all like to put a bit of money away for a rainy day, don't we? But I think you're more prepared than Noah."
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