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8 May 1976


Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson this week slammed the British rock star tax exiles. In an exclusive melody Maker interview, Anderson singled out Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, claiming that both have "misinformed the English people."

Plant hit out at the British tax system earlier this year when he told MM:

You can't sit down and write a song that you're prepared to put out, because you'll be taxed to the hilt. Why the hell should you put out something and come out of it with tuppance?

And last weekend Wood announced he was leaving Britain because, he claimed, he could only keep two per cent of his income.

Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull, however, are British residents, despite the tax laws. Said Anderson:

"I'm not prepared to go over to America for the sake of having an extra 10 or 20 per cent of my money, as opposed to paying it in tax.

"Ron Wood suggested he pays 98 per cent tax. But he couldn't pay 98 per cent tax if he tried. Living in Britain, Ron Wood could pay no more than about 63 per cent.

"And someone should tell Robert Plant that he's wrong. It's really sad that people go around spouting this out in public, because these ridiculous figures just don't exist. You pay 98 per cent tax on non-earned income, but ours is earned income.

"The public believe people like me when we say we're paying 98 per cent tax, but it's simply not true. I would say that, overall, one can pay between 70 and 75 per cent of all your income.

"Whether it's earned abroad or in Britain, whether it's from records or from concerts, you shouldn't have to pay more than that, unless you're silly enough to conduct your life that way.

"No way under the sun can you be paying 98 per cent. And it's time somebody got up and said: 'B----- Ron Wood. Don't give me that. I don't want to know because you're talking up your ***.' And he is. So is Robert Plant.

"So I have to believe that Robert Plant is saying it in a moment of fury because his favourite football team lost that weekend or something, so he's decided he hates England.

"Or maybe he's homesick and can't come to grips with it, so he pretends he doesn't want to live in England anyway by saying how bad it is.

"Sure, the tax is a lot of bread. But it isn't what they have you believe. That's the truth. The English people are being misinformed. They should be given the facts.

"People are actually starting to hate pop stars for making money and running away. Twenty-five per cent of what people like me earn is still a lot of money. I earn as much as a brick-layer who works really hard. And that's a lot of money.

"That's about my level of income, and that's all I need to live comfortably."

In an investigation into the effect of income tax on rock last year, the MM reported that British residents in the top tax bracket — that is, someone who lives here for more than three months a year and who earns over £20,000 — pays 83 per cent income tax after the normal tax-free allowances have been made.

These tax-free allowances include having only 75 per cent of foreign earnings taxed.

On unearned income, such as investments and dividends from shares, there is a 15 per cent surcharge, giving the much quoted figure of 98 per cent.

The list of name musicians in tax exile includes Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones, the Average White Band, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck.


Thanks to Mike Wain for this article, and Gerrit de Geus for confirmation of source and date.