A taxing issue: Does comedian Jimmy Carr deserve his savage media mauling?

This week The Times ran a front page story about tax evasion with a large picture of comedian Jimmy Carr. The story was concerned with his tax affairs in great detail. He has subsequently gone public with a statement confirming he has amended his tax regime.

Next day another front page story about the band Take That followed again the third day with a front page story about the film industry and further tax avoidance schemes.

The ensuing feeding frenzy has debated the legal versus the moral position with the Prime Minister saying Jimmy Carr (left) was engaged in “straightforward tax avoidance” plus further negative personal comment. I’m not going to argue the case either way as it is complex and the muddy waters of whether these schemes are legal or not is for other, better informed people to debate.

I’ve been to a recording today at the BBC of Radio 4s ‘The Now Show’ and Jimmy Carr was the butt of several jokes and one well known performer said to me afterwards “Jimmy will be furious but it is going to run and run.” So that’s a another national programme going out pouring more petrol on the fire.

What I don’t get is a) why are News Corp papers leading with this story and b) why pick on particular individuals? I’m beginning to wonder if Jimmy Carr has made jokes about the Murdochs and this is his punishment. I think it is highly questionable to finger one person when he is one of many high net worth people working with clever, highly paid accountants and lawyers. It reads to me like a vendetta based on a moral, philosophical platform even though the loopholes in government legislation leaves legal doors open to smart tax management. Surely UK PM Cameron and chancellor George Osborne should be apologising for not doing their jobs thoroughly rather than Mr Carr?

Jimmy Carr is a ‘brand’ and this coverage is bound to harm his brand; it is inevitable a proportion of the public won’t read the detail, or understand the complex arguments and therefore have him down as a tax cheat. Mud sticks, as another tax-avoiding comedian Ken Dodd discovered.

As far as News Corp is concerned I feel this coverage is below the belt, in particular given the ex-CEO of UK newspaper subsidiary News International is up for trial for perverting the course of justice. I’ve been a life-long Times reader but now I’m shifting to another broadsheet as I sense something unpleasant behind this; in my opinion I really do think Jimmy Carr has been nailed to the News Corp cross. I’d love to find out why – maybe another court case in the offing?

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.