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Fallen hero: Christian Aid 'disappointed' at pop star tax dodging

9 July 2014 - Christian Aid today expressed disappointment that singer Katie Melua, who was nominated for their Tax Superhero Award four years ago after she publicly stated that she paid ‘nearly half of what comes to me in taxes’, had participated in an aggressive tax avoidance scheme.

Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, said: ‘The news is very disappointing. Christian Aid believes it’s morally wrong for people to avoid paying their fair share of tax, because it undermines vital public services such as hospitals and schools and forces up taxes on people who are too poor or too honest to use such schemes.

‘We have campaigned against tax dodging for a number of years because of the way individuals and multinationals use tax avoidance to deprive developing countries of funds needed for crucial services. Companies, and individuals, often make the right noises about paying tax, but don’t live up to them; this is why we have been campaigning for greater transparency on tax.

‘To be frank, finding celebrities we could use as examples to endorse our tax campaign was an uphill struggle as we have no idea about the tax status of most. Katie, however, seemed ideal because of her public pronouncements on the subject.’

In 2008 the singer told an interviewer: ‘I pay nearly half of what comes to me in taxes, but I know I'm paying to live in a country with lots of amazing qualities. I have seen what it is like living in a country where people don't pay tax and have poor services in terms of health and education.’

The singer is one of 1,600 people said by The Times today to have tried to shelter £1.2bn from HMRC through a tax strategy known as Liberty, which created a tax loss for investors which they could offset against their own income without actually losing any money. The government closed the loophole in 2009.

Katie Melua is said to have tried to shelter £850,000 through the scheme in 2008. Her lawyers told The Times that she had invested in Liberty at the suggestion of her accountants but had subsequently repaid the tax.

According to The Times, investors in the scheme include top businessmen, criminals, celebrities, QCs, NHS doctors, party donors and a judge.

If you would like further information, please contact Andrew Hogg on 0207 523 2058 or ahogg@christian-aid.org. Alternatively, call the 24 hour press duty phone on 07850 242950.

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change www.christianaid.org.uk/images/partnership-for-change-summary.pdf explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk