Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 5th September 2017
At least two players for Manchester United are reportedly being probed by HMRC as part of a wider investigation into tax planning arrangements common within the football industry.
According to the Daily Mail, as many as 200 football players are currently under scrutiny from HMRC and many of the leading players in the Premier League are said to be under the microscope.
The two unnamed Manchester United players are apparently being probed over payments relating to their image rights, with the suspicion believed to be that top players could be using private companies to avoid taxes that they ought to be paying.
It is not thought that the players are under investigation for any criminal activity or major wrongdoing but that they might have been guilty of misusing certain tax planning schemes.
Specifically, the current scrutiny is believed to be focussed on the ways in which leading football clubs pay their players for image rights, which often involves payments made into private companies rather than to players as individual employees.
The fundamentals of this payment structure were given a green light by HMRC in 2014/15 for payments relating to players’ image rights but only up to amounts that equate to 20 per cent or less of a particular player’s wages.
According to sources cited by the Daily Mail, one of the unnamed footballers who is now believed to be under HMRC investigation is a household name and has been on international duty in recent days.
HMRC revealed earlier this year that it is investigating the tax affairs of over a hundred professional football players, along with almost 40 football clubs and several agents who act as player representatives.
The clampdown is part of a broader initiative being undertaken by the UK’s main tax-gathering body to do whatever it can to maximise revenues for the Treasury on an annual basis.
“We rigorously enforce the rules and tackle firmly anybody who games the system,” an HMRC spokesperson is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
“Since 2014-15 we have delivered £269 million in extra tax from tackling rule-breakers in the football industry generally.”