Singer Adele is on top of the charts and her taxes, but that hasn’t stopped critics from trying to drag her down for comments she made about footing the bill for the British welfare state.
On average, British subjects earning more than £122,000 (about $200,000) take home only about 60.9 percent of their earnings, according to a UHY International study released earlier this month. In contrast, the wealthiest Americans typically keep around 70 percent of the money they make. In the midst of the 2009 recession, Alistair Darling, Britain’s previous chancellor, announced a new 50 percent income-tax rate. Tax rates have remained there, despite David Cameron’s pledge to take a look at a reduction once the economy stabilizes.
In the meantime, Adele isn’t pleased. Her first album, 19, released in 2008, sold 2.2 million copies by mid-July — and then the tax bill came due. Now she’s“mortified” to pay half her income in tax, and told Q Magazine:
I use the NHS, I can’t use public transport any more, doing what I do, I went to state school . . . ! Trains are always late, most state schools are s[***], and I’ve gotta give you like 4 million quid, are you ’avin a laugh? When I got my tax bill in from 19, I was ready to go ’n’ buy a gun and randomly open fire.
At only 23 and worth a rumored £6 million, the chanteuse could be forgiven her harsh words. Careening from award to award — her latest album, 21, became the first in 2011 to sell 2 million copies last week and tops the charts in 15 countries — she hasn’t had time to learn the diva deal that the political Left affords stars: Make your music, but don’t have any politics but ours. And predictably, the Guardian’s Rob Fitzpatrick attacked her for her heresy and joined in the cacophony on Twitter by calling her “as greedy as the most moat-friendly port-stained Tory grandee.”
But Adele, born to a single teenage mum in working-class London, neither looks nor acts the part of Scrooge and spends her days hanging out with her mates and drinking cider in the afternoon. She won’t give up smoking, though it could end her singing career. And she’s far more generous than the cradle-to-grave welfare state she’s supposed to love. She dotes upon her mother and has endowed trust funds for her cousins who are “young mums.” Indeed, Adele aspires not to sing forever, but to motherhood: “I feel like I’m here to be a mum. I wanna look after someone and be looked after, give my all to someone in marriage and have a big family, have a proper purpose.”
By off-handedly criticizing the implicit purpose of Leviathan — higher and higher taxes with little to show for it — Adele is a danger to the public-sector spendthrifts. If you lose the glitterati, the jig is up. No less than Oprah, the doyenne of celebrity, confessed to Piers Morgan in January that she finds filing taxes painful. Her accountants bring her the forms — and her tequila. Not surprisingly, Oprah, who backed Obama in 2008, has declined to endorse him for 2012.
If Adele finds her taxes too high, she can always come to America, where taxes, at least for celebrities, have long seemed optional. The IRS most recently hit rapper DMX with a tax lien in May. Actor Wesley Snipes didn’t even file from 1999 to 2004, and as a result is currently serving a three-year prison sentence. Another rapper, Lil Wayne, owes taxes from 2004, 2005, and 2007. And singer and actress Dionne Warwick, according to the LA Times, owes $2.2 million in back taxes.
— Charles C. Johnson is both the Eric Breindel Collegiate and Robert F. Bartley Fellow at the Wall Street Journal.