Tax avoidance: is Jimmy Carr's comedy career over?
If we see Carr on 10 O'Clock Live again the hypocrisy will be insufferable, says one critic
JIMMY CARR has had a tough week. Plastered across the front of The Times yesterday, the comedian was accused of using a tax avoidance scheme to shelter £3.3m a year from the taxman.
His reps have been quick to point out that he has done nothing illegal by channelling his earnings through a Jersey-based scheme called K2 that returns the money to him via a non-taxable loan.
But, legal or not, paying as little as one per cent income tax has been described as "morally repugnant" by David Gauke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury with responsibility for HMRC. While Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, yesterday said tax avoiders are the "moral equivalent of benefits cheats".
A number of fans defended Carr's morality on Twitter, claiming others would do the same if they could and criticising the high rates of tax in the UK. Comedian John Bishop quipped that Carr's finances are like his jokes – "every comedian in the country read it and said I wish I thought of that!"
Even Carr himself managed to make light of the situation at a gig in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, last night, saying: "When the Murdochs are questioning your morality, you know you're in trouble." After an audience member shouted: "You don't pay tax", he replied: "I pay what I have to and not a penny more."
But, as news of Carr's tax avoidance went viral, so too did links to a sketch he performed on satirical comedy 10 O'Clock Live in which he plays a female Barclays bank clerk. Donning a blonde wig he imparts advice on tax avoidance, following news reports alleging that the bank had been avoiding tax.
"Why don't you apply for the Barclays one per cent tax scam?" Carr jokes. "You will need the world's biggest, most aggressive team of blood-hungry amoral tax lawyers. If you meet the criteria, you'll pay one per cent tax, like Barclays do."
Lampooning fat cat bankers while employing tax avoidance measures of exactly the same sort has attracted accusations that he is a hypocrite – a charge that is likely to pose more danger to his career as a satirical comedian than accusations of immorality made by politicians.
As Tim Stanley writes in The Daily Telegraph today, "a lot of the anger isn't really about tax avoidance. It's about hypocrisy".
James Delingpole, another Telegraph blogger, agrees. Delingpole suggests that Carr's "credibility is toast" and could not expect his "sixth-form spray-on Lefty mates" to take him seriously ever again. One liberal blogger confirms: "If we see Carr on 10 O'Clock Live again the hypocrisy will be insufferable."
Even fellow comedian Frankie Boyle tweeted: "It's OK to avoid tax providing every time you do a joke about a town being s*** you add 'partly down to me I'm afraid' under your breath."
However, if Carr's comedy career does end up in ruins, political blogger Will Parbury has a useful suggestion to keep him in the showbiz circle – "the skill with which Jimmy Carr can make his money disappear when it gets near HMRC points to a second career as a magician".