A Beatles Accountant Quit After Warning the Band They Were in ‘Terrible Financial Trouble’
The Beatles were the most successful band of their time, but they still found themselves mired in financial problems. By the late 1960s, the band dealt with constant infighting, which was not helped by their money problems. After the last of three higher-ups at Apple Corps quit, the band received a warning about their finances. Stephen Maltz, an accountant and financial adviser for the band, stepped away from his position after he warned the band they were in danger.
The Beatles faced financial trouble in the late 1960s
In the 1960s, the tax laws in the United Kingdom had The Beatles paying 90% of their earnings to the government. This meant that despite the vast amount of money the band brought in, they weren’t necessarily in a good financial position. It didn’t help that their accountants began quitting in droves at the end of the decade.
One of their accountants quit because of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins cover. Not long after, accountant Harry Pinsker left.
“Bryce Hanmer, the Beatles’ accountants, had what William Burroughs would call an ‘orgasm of prurience’ and refused to act for them any longer because of the sleeve,” Barry Miles wrote in the book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles. “Harry Pinsker, the head of the company, resigned from the board of Apple and the Beatles’ affairs were delegated to a junior partner, Stephen Maltz, who had worked with Apple in-house since its beginning.”
Maltz then resigned in 1968. Before he left, though, he wrote lengthy letters to each band member to warn them about their financial situation. To stay afloat, they had to bring in far, far more money than they spent.
“Maltz himself resigned at the end of October 1968, after writing a five-page letter to each of the Beatles, detailing the terrible financial trouble that they were storing up for themselves and pointing out that for every £10,000 spent, something like £120,000 had to come in because of their enormous tax exposure.”
The band released a song called ‘Taxman’
Amid these troubles, George Harrison wrote a song called “Taxman.” He wrote it in protest of the high taxes the band paid, making it the band’s first-ever protest song. Part of Harrison’s concern was that the band’s taxes would fund weapon manufacturing.
“I’ll tax the street/ (If you try to sit, sit) I’ll tax your seat/ (If you get too cold, cold) I’ll tax the heat/ (If you take a walk, walk) I’ll tax your feet” Harrison sang.
John Lennon spoke openly about The Beatles’ financial trouble
Lennon explained that beyond the tax situation, he had a problem with that much of his earnings went to Apple Records.
“The problem is that two years ago our accountants made us sign over 80 percent of all our royalties to Apple,” he told Melody Maker in 1969, per Gaslight Records. “We can’t touch any of it, and it’s a ridiculous situation. All the money comes into this little building and it never gets out.”
Though The Beatles lived in lavish homes and took expensive vacations, Lennon said their financial troubles were a constant worry.
“The Beatles’ wealth is all a myth,” he said. “The only expensive things I’ve ever owned are my house and my cars, and I just haven’t got anything else. I don’t even break even on the films we make, and that worries me.”