Jimmy Carr: free-riding fraud.

From The Times today:

One of Channel 4’s biggest stars, Mr Carr is a member of K2, a scheme examined by The Times. K2’s members pay income tax rates of as little as 1 per cent. According to K2’s provider, Mr Carr, 39, shelters £3.3 million a year by channelling proceeds from DVD sales and television appearances through a Jersey-based company that then “lends” him the money back. Since loans are untaxable, Mr Carr, like other K2 members, is likely to have avoided paying significant sums to Revenue & Customs.

What to say about this odious hypocrite? If Carr were a staunch libertarian morally opposed to the fifty pence rate and avoiding tax accordingly, it would have been bad enough. But that clearly isn’t his justification. He’s not hunting down loopholes so he pays the same percent as most people. He’s taking his millions and working out how to maximise his bottom line by contributing as little as possible. His effective rate is 1.25%. 1.25%. Meanwhile, he lambasts the greed of others on Channel 4 only to fuel his own.

Yes, the law should be so constructed that he can’t shaft society like this legally. But it’s a sick reflection on your civic ethos if you see tax as a pest to be evaded. I won’t resent my duty to contribute to the welfare state. Carr, already drunk on his millions, apparently wanted even more.

Janice Turner interviewed him two months ago:

I ask what he believes in and he looks astonished. “I don’t think anyone is that interested in what I think.” Does he support the current government?

“No, I wouldn’t support it in a million years, it’s a terrible thing.” With some prodding he adds: “I’m a liberal with a small ‘l’. I have always voted Labour. I am very into the idea of the individual being an incredible force for good in society but you need a safety net and it seems that the coalition are taking that away.”

But detached and cerebral, he does not sound particularly passionate about anything.

Nick Cohen offers a semi-defense:

Carr ought to be able to say, “I’ve committed no crime. I am just taking advantage of legal tax loopholes. Like so many people in every trade, I’m in comedy for the money and want to keep every penny I can. What’s wrong with that?” There would be nothing wrong if he had had the integrity to be an honest clown. As it is, the postures television required him to strike, and the cynicism behind the lies he has lived, make him a laughable figure — and for all the wrong reasons.

But David Aaronovitch, in his column tomorrow, nails it:

The “save Jimmy Carr” argument seems to be based on the false idea that legality and morality are congruent: that it is the job of the law to tell us what is moral…

[O]ne cornerstone of moral systems is imagining what would happen if everybody did the same thing. If we all found a Carr-style way to avoid paying our taxes, would we be a better or a worse society? The answer — criminals roaming unhindered, the borders unpoliced, children uneducated, the sick left to die at home — is obvious, and that should be the basis for a conscience-based decision on paying tax.

Conscience, unfortunately, needs social reinforcement, which is where shaming comes in. And it’s also where we deal with the comedian’s hypocrisy.

This is spot on, and if we see Carr on Ten O’Clock Live again the hypocrisy will be insufferable. Let’s see him face these questions. Would he be happy for everyone to follow his path? What does he think Britain would look like if everyone paid his tax rate? And if he can’t sincerely say he would consent to that hypothetical situation, how does he feel knowing he lives according to a principle he could never want others to follow? This is sheer hypocrisy, pure free-riding: publicly promoting a system that you yourself do not sustain. There are few things more repugnant in the world.

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