After Sticky Fingers was released in 1971, the Rolling Stones relocated to the south of France, tax exiles from their homeland. They also set up a corporation to manage their post-Decca recordings: Promotone B.V., headquartered in the Netherlands. Nobody much complained, since everybody who could was bailing out of Britain in those days.
Much to Bono’s dismay, people today complain:
The rock band moved the company U2 Ltd, set up to deal with royalty payments, to a finance house in Holland in 2006 after the Irish Government scrapped an artist income tax exemption scheme. The new limit was capped at €250,000 (£223,000).
Accounts for 2007 show U2 Ltd paid out more than €21 million (£19m) in wages.
And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth:
Nessa Ni Chasaide [of the Debt and Development Coalition Ireland] called on Bono to give his view on the impact of tax injustice on the impoverished world.
“We wanted to raise our concern that while Bono has championed the cause of fighting poverty and injustice in the impoverished world, the fact is that his band has moved part of its business to a tax shelter in the Netherlands,” she said.
“Tax avoidance and tax evasion costs the impoverished world at least 160 million US dollars every year. This is money urgently required to bring people out of poverty.
“U2 is just one part of the problem. This is a much wider and systemic problem in our global financial system. Every company and individual has the responsibility to pay the right amount of tax.”
The “right amount of tax” is as nebulous a concept as the “current temperature of earth,” and I trust no one who claims to have figures for either. Apparently neither does Mark Steyn:
Oh, come on. It doesn’t cost “the impoverished world” anything. It’s Bono’s money, not theirs. And who’s to say, even if he did give it to the government, that they’d stick it in the mail to some Afro-Marxist kleptocrat as opposed to squandering it closer to home? I’m with the U2 lads on this: I think the caterwauling rockers know better how to spend their dough than the state does. I’m entirely sympathetic to the wish of Timothy Geithner and the other A-list tax delinquents of President Obama’s administration not to toss one more penny than the absolute minimum into the great sucking maw of the government treasury.
No doubt some people will be disillusioned, possibly the same people who can’t imagine Joan Baez in a two-tone Kenzo knit.