Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 28th January 2015
Dozens of former professional football players are among the recent recipients of Accelerated Payment Notices (APNs) from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), according to reports.
HMRC has been stepping up its efforts to clampdown on tax avoidance with APNs seen as an important deterrent to that end and a means of recovering money deemed to have been unfairly shielded from taxation in the past.
The Guardian reports that as many as 140 former professional footballers, including some recently retired Premier League players, have been hit with APNs in recent months.
Despite having had the chance to earn millions of pounds during their careers as professional players, many of the former footballer recipients of APNs are said to be facing significant financial difficulties and potential bankruptcy in some cases.
Details on the figures involved are yet to emerge but it is reported that very large sums of money are being demanded by HMRC through its APNs, which leave recipients with essentially no option but to pay the taxes they are said to owe. HMRC’s policy, backed up by the Treasury and relevant legislation, is that separate legal cases relating to tax avoidance schemes can be cited and used as grounds for the pursuit of money deemed to be due in unpaid taxes.
According to the Guardian, the extent of the problems being faced by former footballers as a result of HMRC’s APN clampdown are such that around 100 have sought help in dealing with the resulting issues from the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Meanwhile, the charity organisation Xpro, which aims to help ensure the welfare of retired football players around the country, has said it is representing around 40 more individuals as they are pursued for repayment of taxes on a considerable scale. Many of the former sportsmen affected are said to be in “dire straits,” with 20 or so believed to be close to bankruptcy.
Geoff Scott, chief executive of Xpro, explained that footballers have often been targeted by financial advisors and instructed in how to join schemes that involved large-scale tax avoidance.
“Many entered into them because they saw their teammates doing it,” Mr Scott is quoted as saying.
“They considered their job was on the pitch, and their advisers were looking after them off it. We are representing 40 players, many are divorced, houses are being repossessed, some guys have gone bankrupt already, and we know of 20 facing bankruptcy or an individual [insolvency] voluntary arrangement principally because of tax demands.”
A number of high profile former international football players have entered bankruptcy in recent years. Among the most notable cases was David James, who was once worth an estimated £20 million but who was reduced to selling a career’s worth of sporting memorabilia online after filing for bankruptcy in May 2014.