A freedom of information (FOI) request obtained by The Times newspaper reveals that HMRC is vetting celebrities before they are awarded honours. The move is controversial as HMRC is not normally allowed to share personal data.

According to the Times HMRC rates each nominee using a 'traffic light system,' with green for low risk, amber for medium and red for high. Serious defaulters are given a red light and users of abusive tax avoidance schemes are given an orange light.

Nominees are subject to some internal checks by government, the aim being to protect the integrity of the honours system. 


  • The names of many celebrities who have used abusive tax schemes are already in the public arena having been mentioned in court and tribunal decisions.
  • There have been some embarrassing incidents in the past when it has been revealed that some award recipients have business or tax arrangements that are later found to be distasteful to the public and parliament alike.
  • Vetting prospective honours nominees is a somewhat subjective process. Many entertainers and sportsmen live abroad and engage in tax planning based on their offshore advantage.