Beatles’ Friend: Taxes Helped Break Them Up

September 10, 2009

Long-time Beatles’ friend Tony Bramwell blames the high British taxes of the time for contributing to the break up of the famed group, according to an op-ed in the Times Online:

In his recent book Magical Mystery Tours (a wonderful insider memoir) Bramwell argues that it was penal tax rates that helped to destroy the group’s cohesion.

First told to give away vast amounts to avoid tax bills — which they did in a series of madcap ventures, offering money to any old person who dropped by with a demo tape — then told they had to make £120,000 in order to keep just £10,000. Soon their finances were in chaos and their energy sapped, as nutters beseiged Apple HQ pressing tapes on them. They also ran a clothes shop as a tax dodge.

Bramwell blames Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, directly. “There were enough new regulations and red tape to tie up free enterprise for years … One minute Swinging London was like a giant theme park, the envy of the world, then they — Wilson and his gang — closed it down. It was as if they went out and stamped on it.”

In 1970, the year that Paul McCartney struck out on his own, the top British income tax rate was 83 percent, before other taxes. I hope this helps answer Matthew Yglesias’s question of what happens when we have punitive-level tax rates.

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