Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mail apologises to Nicolas Cage and BBC over 'tax evasion' claims

Actor Nicolas Cage has won an apology and 'undisclosed damages' from MailOnline after an article published on 1 September called him a 'tax evader'.

His solicitor Paul Tweed said:

"My client has secured a complete vindication of his reputation following the publication of a categoric retraction by the MailOnline for what they immediately acknowledged was a completely unfounded and defamatory allegation of tax evasion.

"While my client acknowledges the MailOnline's prompt apology, which was one of the quickest that I have negotiated in recent times, together with the payment of undisclosed damages and his legal costs, he nonetheless remains very concerned that such a false and outrageous headline should have been published in the first place."

MailOnline has now published the following:

On 1 September we wrongly referred to Nicolas Cage as a “tax evader”. While Mr Cage has owed a substantial sum to the IRS for unpaid taxes, he has never been accused or found guilty of any tax crime. We apologise to Mr Cage for any distress and embarrassment caused by our error.

This is not the only time the Mail has got in trouble over a 'tax evasion' claim in recent months. On 23 July, the paper splashed 'BBC tells stars to dodge tax' on its front page:

Chief Financial Office Zarin Patel responded to the 'misleading reports', explaining:

Contrary to these reports, we have not told thousands of workers to go 'off the books' in order to cut our tax bill, neither are we 'avoiding national insurance' contributions by paying individuals via service companies...

Let me be clear, the BBC does not expect anyone to use the service company arrangement to 'dodge tax' by paying the lower corporation rate when they are not eligible to do so...

All the arrangements that the BBC uses have been designed in conjunction with HMRC. Far from being an attempt to 'dodge tax', the arrangements are designed to ensure the correct amount is payable...

On 7 August, the Mail published a correction:

A front page story and editorial comment on July 23 wrongly suggested that the BBC was instructing its staff to set up personal service companies in order to avoid or evade paying the correct amount of tax.

While it is true that the BBC have asked hundreds of workers to set up personal service companies, we accept that neither the BBC, nor its Chief Financial Officer, Zarin Patel, have told members of its payroll (or freelancers) to avoid or evade tax and apologise to them for any such suggestion.

Needless to say, this did not appear with the prominence of the original and was not published on the front page. 

Patel is currently taking legal action against the Daily Star, after it published its own version of the Mail's story (headline: 'Dodge tax or face the sack! BBC tells its stars'.)

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