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Celebs exposed in £1.2bn tax avoidance scheme

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A number of celebrities, including Weakest Link presenter Anne Robinson and members of Take That, have been exposed as participants in a £1.2bn tax avoidance scheme, according to reports.

The Liberty tax strategy, based out of Jersey, enabled investors to escape income tax by paying 7p in the pound in fees.

According to a report in the Times, Robinson paid £280,000 to use the Jersey-based scheme to avoid tax on about £4m.

Meanwhile, Take That members Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen are understood by the paper to have sought to avoid tax on £6.5m through the scheme.

It was based on the buying and selling of dividends offshore, generating more than £1bn in artificial losses, which members could offset against their own tax bills.

The strategy came to the attention of HMRC in 2006, although it has taken more than six years to bring the scheme to a tax tribunal, which is expected to sit next spring.

While it was shut down after new legislation was brought in by the government, HMRC has yet to challenge the investors who avoided tax through the scheme, with an average of £300m sheltered a year between 2004 and 2008.

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