Comedian Jimmy Carr last night defended being part of a tax avoidance scheme, saying: "I pay what I have to and not a penny more."
The stand-up comedian, who has lampooned greedy bankers, is said to be the largest beneficiary of K2, a Jersey-based scheme which is allegedly used by investors to pay around one per cent of their income to the taxman. Carr is among 1,000 rich Britons said to be benefiting.
But last night at a show he made light of the scandal and thanked the audience for not giving him a hard time.
At the gig in Tunbridge Wells, he joked: “I haven’t been reading newspapers today.” With irony he added: “Murdoch is giving me lessons on morality?”
He was speaking at the Assembly Hall theatre as part of his nationwide “Gagging Order” tour.
He was heckled about not paying his tax and replied: “I have been paying exactly how much I need to and not a penny more."
Earlier, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, criticised those who use tax avoidance loopholes as the “moral equivalent of benefits cheats”.
The revenue confirmed yesterday that K2 is under investigation and promised to “challenge it in every way available”, saying no one should get away with paying less tax than they should.
The scheme is understood to protect £168?million a year from the taxman in Jersey, and has allegedly helped Carr, 39, shelter £3.3?million a year.
It works by transferring income into a trust based in Jersey, which will then lend investors back the money. The loan, which can technically be recalled, is not subject to income tax.
According to an investigation by The Times newspaper, thousands of high earners use such schemes to do their accounting “under the radar”.
Lawyers for the comedian confirmed he is a member of K2, but denied any wrongdoing, saying the scheme had been disclosed to the revenue in line with the law.
The Government has already announced curbs on individual tax avoidance, which is estimated to account for £4.5 billion of £7 billion lost each year.
Carr, who performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, performed a sketch on the show Ten O’Clock Live lampooning Barclays over its tax arrangements, and referred to “the world’s biggest, most aggressive team of blood-hungry amoral tax lawyers”.
Carr’s membership of the K2 scheme led to jokes on the websites Twitter and Facebook. He was accused of “laughing all the way to the offshore bank” and told to “take it easy … don’t overtax yourself!”
George Osborne, the Chancellor, has pledged to take action over multi-millionaires exploiting tax loopholes.
Shortly after this year’s Budget, the K2 scheme reportedly told its members “most of the powerful tax-saving opportunities survived”.
An accountant promised to cut the tax bill on a £280,000 salary from £127,000 to £3,500.
Roy Lyness, of Peak Performance Accountants which runs the K2 scheme, told businessmen: “It’s a game of cat and mouse. The revenue closes one scheme, we find another way round it.”
Carr’s management did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.