Raymond Doherty 23 Oct 2018 04:39pm

HMRC ramps up football tax crackdown

The Revenue is currently investigating 171 professional football players, an increase of 90% since last year

There are also ongoing HMRC probes into 44 football clubs and 31 football agents.

A HMRC spokesperson said it is examining a "range of issues, including image rights abuse".

"We carefully scrutinise the individual arrangements between football clubs and their players to make sure the right tax is being paid in the UK.

"HMRC rigorously enforces the rules and has brought in £332m in extra tax by tackling non-compliance in the football industry."

Last year the Revenue announced it was going to visit all Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier League clubs over a three-year period.

It created a new compliance project to pursue those within the football industry that it believes are guilty of tax avoidance after it staged dawn raids at Newcastle United and West Ham United and in France over suspected income tax and National Insurance fraud.

Accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young argued that HMRC is involved in “fishing” expeditions to catch football players out over image rights payments, which it believes, are being used to avoid tax.

“HMRC’s focus on the football industry has been sharpened since a 2017 House of Commons Report concluded that tax avoidance in the sport was becoming widespread,” said Nick Hall, tax manager at UHY Hacker Young.

“Dawn raids on two Premier league football clubs last year over suspected tax avoidance offences also put the tax affairs of players under the spotlight.”

“From what we are seeing, we expect many more than 198 football players to be on HMRC’s radar as these figures only relate to open inquiries,” he added.

BDO’s annual survey of football club FDs this year revealed that opinion is divided on whether HMRC understands the football sector.