Spanish prosecutors are charging pop music star Shakira with tax evasion, alleging she failed to pay more than 14.5 million euros ($16.3 million) between 2012 and 2014. The charges published Friday (Dec. 14) allege Shakira listed the Bahamas as her official residence for tax purposes during those years but was in fact living in Spain with her partner, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique.
Tax rates are much lower in the Bahamas than in Spain. Prosecutors in Barcelona say her travel abroad was for short periods because of professional commitments, while most of the year she stayed in Spain. They want her to pay tax in Spain on her worldwide income.
The Colombian singer officially moved to Spain for tax purposes in 2015, after having two children by Pique. A magistrate will assess whether there is enough evidence to put Shakira on trial. Shakira’s representatives said they had no immediate comment. Prosecutors want Shakira to pay a bond of 19.4 million euros — the amount they say she owes in tax, plus 33 percent, in accordance with Spanish law. Otherwise, they recommend a court freeze of her assets to that amount.
In a response to investigators, Shakira’s defense said that she was away from Spain during most of the time in the cited years, and that most of her income came from abroad. In addition, she maintained that she had not attempted to willfully hide her income, and characterized the issue as one of “a difference in criteria.”
In a statement provided to Billboard on Dec. 7, the singer's representatives laid out what they called the "discrepancies between PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Spanish Tax Agency regarding Shakira’s fiscal status in Spain and a possible forthcoming legal complaint." The statement says that "Shakira has at all times fulfilled her tax obligations and owes no money to the Spanish Treasury. As soon as she was made aware of the amount that according to the Tax Agency she owed, as a gesture of good faith, she made the payment in full, and, therefore, there are currently no monies owed."
It added that the singer has "fulfilled all tax obligations" and has always followed the advice of the respected accounting firm PwC, who began working with her in 2012, explaining that Shakira's is a "unique case" of a foreign citizen of Spain whose income is generated almost entirely (96%) abroad. "It is important to note that Shakira’s intense professional activity takes her all over the world, and as such, her business and family models are very different from conventional models," according to the statement.
Shakira was named in the “Paradise Papers” leaks that detailed the offshore tax arrangements of numerous high-profile individuals, including musical celebrities like Madonna and U2′s Bono. The documents were obtained by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and investigated by Spanish news website El Confidencial.
Spain’s tax authorities referred their probe to the Barcelona prosecutor’s office a year ago. Sports celebrities have also been in trouble with Spanish tax authorities, including footballers Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.