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Footballers fall under HMRC spotlight

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Updated: 5th February 2020

HMRC Chief Explains Scrutiny of Top Footballer Players' Tax Affairs

Dozens of high profile football players are under scrutiny from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in relation to potential irregularities in their tax affairs, the organisation’s chief executive Jon Thompson has explained.

Speaking during a recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session at the House of Commons, Thompson told MPs that he would like to see a review conducted into the ways in which footballers are currently able to reduce their tax bills.

Of particular concern for HMRC is the issue of image rights, for which footballers are apparently being paid in many cases directly into offshore accounts without being taxed.

“I think if it was me, I would want to review this. It is quite difficult to explain to a football fan that that is the law,” Thompson told MPs.

During the same Westminster session, HMRC’s head of enforcement Jennie Granger said that 43 football players, eight agents and 12 football clubs are currently under investigation by HMRC.

She also explained that HMRC has created a team of investigators tasked with looking into the issue of image rights and taxation in relation to various other sports and the entertainment industry, as well as the world of high level professional football.

“Just on football itself, in the last two years, that team, and wider across HMRC, has brought in £158 million in yield,” Granger told the PAC.

A key focus for HMRC has been efforts aimed at discerning whether certain individuals may have been improperly separating image rights earnings from other earnings for tax reduction purposes, Granger said.

In recent days the Sunday Times newspaper reported that the Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho stands accused of moving millions of pounds in earnings to offshore bank accounts in order to avoid paying taxes to HMRC.

The high profile football manager reportedly put £10 million into a Swiss bank account owned by a British Virgin Islands business operation which has no employees.

Responding to those allegations, the PAC’s chairwoman Meg Hiller said that Mr Mourinho’s tax affairs should be investigated by UK officials.

HMRC representatives have said that they do not comment on individual cases but told the BBC that it takes “all allegations of tax evasion extremely seriously”.

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