Christian Aid has slammed singer Katie Melua for her participation in an aggressive tax avoidance scheme.
The Times revealed yesterday that Melua is among 1,600 celebrities – including Sir Michael Caine and Gary Barlow – doctors, QCs and business execs to have sheltered an estimated £1.2 billion from the taxman in the Liberty scheme, which was stopped in 2009.
Melua has previously been nominated for Christian Aid's Tax Superhero Award, after revealing in a 2008 interview that she pays "nearly half of what comes to me in taxes".
"I know I'm paying to live in a country with lots of amazing qualities. I have seen what it is like living in a country where people don't pay tax and have poor services in terms of health and education," she added.
Yesterday's revelation was a disappointment to Christian Aid, which has campaigned tirelessly against schemes which protect the rich at the expense of the poor.
"The news is very disappointing. Christian Aid believes it's morally wrong for people to avoid paying their fair share of tax because it undermines vital public services such as hospitals and schools and forced up taxes on people who are too poor or too honest to use such schemes," said senior economic justice advisor Joseph Stead.
"We have campaigned against tax dodging for a number of years because of the way individuals and multinationals use tax avoidance to deprive developing countries of funds needed for crucial services. Companies, and individuals, often make the right noises about paying tax, but don't live up to them; this is why we have been campaigning for greater transparency on tax.
"To be frank, finding celebrities we could use as examples to endorse our tax campaign was an uphill struggle as we have no idea about the tax status of most. Katie, however, seemed ideal because of her public pronouncements on the subject."
Melua was discovered to have attempted to shelter £850,000 through Liberty, but her lawyers insist that she invested only "at the suggestion of her accountants" and later repaid the tax in full.