David Beckham, Gary Lineker and Robbie Williams could be among those being treated as pariahs by the establishment and overlooked for honours, a freedom of information request has revealed.
The request made by The Times newspaper has discovered a traffic light system applied to lists of prospective honours recipients.
The individuals are not named but it may explain why Beckham and Williams have received no nod to visit the palace despite achievements in sport, music and charity.
Lineker, a former England captain and top scorer, who took his team to the World Cup quarter-finals, received an OBE in 1992 but has not been elevated since.
All three have been connected to schemes which invest in films but have come under intense scrutiny from the UK taxman.
“What is odd is that it was the government which introduced the film tax credits and other reliefs to encourage investment and then when taxpayers have taken the bait and invested in ‘approved’ schemes they get treated as if they are pariahs,” said Stephenson Harwood partner and tax expert James Quarmby told International Adviser.
“The reality is that the majority of the film schemes actually invested in British films, some of them very successful, so to argue that film partnerships are wholly abusive isn’t fair in the context.”
“Some of the schemes have been over-leveraged so as to maximise the reliefs, but others have not. Focus has often been on the non-recourse loans from the banks, but banks aren’t charities so they will only lend on commercial terms.”
Last week, leading film tax scheme specialist Ingenious Media said it would appeal a £47.3m ($60.9m, €52.4m) plus interest fine from HM Revenue and Customs, which says the scheme is abusive.