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  • Rat Trap: Sir Bob Geldof, charity and tax

    11 May 2017

    Andy Wood

    It’s hard to be believe that more than three decades have passed since the Live Aid fundraising chain of concerts around the world which raised an estimated £150 million to provide famine relief in Ethiopia.

    Whilst many people’s most immediate recollections are the performances of the pop and rock legends who played, for some others the highlight remains the face of the event, Bob Geldof, who even uttered expletives during the BBC’s live coverage in an effort to increase the sums contributed by viewers.

    In the years since, the former singer with The Boomtown Rats has not only earned global public acclaim for his charitable efforts but won a string of honours, including being presented with an honorary knighthood by the Queen.

    Never far from the news, Geldof has been back in the headlines in recent days as one ex-bandmate, the Rats’ keyboard player, Johnny ‘Fingers’ Moylett, has been pursuing a claim for a share of recording royalties generated by the group’s biggest hit, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ (

    However, my attention was piqued in particular not by the musicians or their music but a fresh reference to Sir Bob’s tax affairs.

    An Irish non-dom, Geldof has extensive media business interests in the UK which have created an estimated £32 million fortune (a figure which, admittedly, he disputes).

    Asked about the amount of tax which he pays on his earnings, he has been as forthright as you might expect. In fact, according to one Times’ reporter, he has suggested that he should be afforded some tax relief because of the time which he spends on charitable ventures.

    On that occasion, he responded to a question about the amount which he coughed up to HMRC how many irrigation ditches the reporter’s salary had paid for.

    He later deemed the publicity which resulted from that exchange as “tax-maggedon” and “moral repulsion” (

    Even so, someone so astute at capturing and tapping into a mood as he is will have recognised the degree of interest which the tax status of wealthy celebrities readily arouses.

    Although he is not accused of impropriety in any way, the suggestion that his time should be used almost as an intangible asset worthy of reducing his tax bill is only likely to produce snorts of derision from public and HMRC alike.

    Everyone knows that tax relief relating to charity extends to the sort of digging in pockets and brandishing chequebooks which Geldof himself demanded at Live Aid.

    Of course, there is the possibility that this is merely another example not of Geldof’s temper but his equally renowned sense of sarcasm.

    If perceived as sincere, though, the singer now regarded as something of a living Irish saint will doubtless appreciate the potential for damage to his deserved reputation.Surely no-one in his position would welcome the thought that he, in the words of one of The Boomtown Rats’ chart hits is ‘Looking After Number One’.