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The Edge says “shut up with your tax moaning”

By | Published on Friday 15 July 2011


The Edge, it seems, is getting bored of people dissing his band over their tax arrangements.

As much previously reported, anti-capitalist group Art Uncut have recently brought new focus on U2’s widely reported decision a few years back to move some of their business operations from Ireland to the Netherlands, a move which makes their ventures more tax efficient. While such arrangements are the norm for any business that operates in multiple territories, some feel it is hypocritical for a millionaire rock star who frequently preaches about making poverty history around the world to be striving for tax efficiency, when tax-funded state aid generally dwarfs the money raised by charities, such as those supported by Bono, to help those most in need.

When Art Uncut staged a protest (or, at least, tried to) during U2’s recent headline set at Glastonbury, Bono was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “I’m all for protests. I’ve been protesting all of my life. I’m glad they got the chance to have their say. But, as it happens, what they’re protesting about is wrong”. The Edge, however, wasn’t responding to that protest when he had a rant this week about U2’s critics. He was responding to a letter in the Baltimore Sun, where a reader criticised Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin for supporting Bono’s anti-poverty ONE campaign, calling it “a lobbying group with no mandate or accountability” and adding “Bono exemplifies the worst characteristics of Wall Street, both for excess and tax evasion”.

In his own letter to the paper’s editor, The Edge says, among other things: “The most serious inaccuracy is the totally false and possibly libellous accusation that U2 and Bono have, by moving a part of their business activities to Holland, been involved in tax evasion. For the record, U2 and the individual band members have a totally clean record with every jurisdiction to which they are required to pay tax and have never been and will never be involved in tax evasion. The Irish Ministry of Finance … have no problem with U2 basing some of their business activities in Holland … [and] U2 and its members have paid many, many millions of dollars in taxes to the United States Internal Revenue Service over the years”.

Now, obviously, The Edge is right to object to that particular letter writer’s allegations of ‘tax evasion’, though most of the band’s other critics have never accused Bono et al of illegality. They simply question the ethics of striving for tax efficiency while encouraging governments to increase aid budgets and calling on poorer fans to donate to anti-poverty causes. To be fair to Bono and The Edge, many celebrities are guilty of the same hypocrisy, it’s just Bono shouts louder about poverty issues than most, which makes him a better guy, but also, arguably, a bigger hypocrite. Such is life.