Taxman's 181 questions for every major club: Astonishing extent of perks probe into super-rich stars is revealed
Extensive probe: The taxman is looking into payments to top stars and their WAGS, such as Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen (above)
The full extent of the taxman’s investigation into top footballers and their clubs has been revealed in a secret document leaked to The Mail on Sunday.
Last week, this newspaper disclosed that HM Revenue & Customs is probing secret perks lavished on stars by their employers.
But now a questionnaire sent to financial directors of top clubs details how they are also targeting every aspect of operations – including payments to stars’ wives and girlfriends and whether foreign stars are avoiding tax.
The 16-page Football Clubs Employment Issues Questionnaire poses 181 detailed questions relating to the payment of players, such as Wayne Rooney, who commands a 13 million salary, and John Terry, who earns 7 million, as well as the finances of all the elite clubs.
The document demands details including:
Whether players’ wives and girlfriends ended up on the club’s payroll.How match tickets are handed out to players and their families and the extent of the use of stadium corporate hospitality.Accounting procedures for testimonial matches, which can rake in up to 2 million for an individual player.If clubs pay foreign stars differently from British players.
The breadth of the investigation has surprised financial experts. Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said: ‘These are very detailed questions which go to the heart of the business of a football club.
‘The taxman may have decided the clubs are high risk in terms of tax and they are trawling through everything they can think of which might have a tax impact at a football club.’
In depth: The survey by HM Revenue & Customs, which includes 181 questions, will probe the finances of players like John Terry, who earns 7million a year
The questionnaire also probes the role of agents and the proper declaration of sponsorship deals in which footballers are given free merchandising or luxury cars.
The Revenue hopes to recoup millions of pounds in unpaid taxes from players and clubs. The document has been prepared by senior inspectors who have spent months gathering ‘intelligence’ on the elite clubs and their stars.
Even Christmas parties, such as Manchester City’s extravagant event at the Anaya club in London, face scrutiny. The HMRC asks: ‘Is there an annual function for staff, such as a Christmas party If so please provide details.’
It also asks: ‘Has the club granted any player a monetary consideration in lieu of a testimonial to which he was eligible’
Scrutiny: Some of the HMRC questions the clubs will have to answer
The tax affairs of foreign players will also come under greater scrutiny. It is understood that the salaries of some overseas stars are paid only for matches played in the UK, with appearances made in international competitions abroad accounted for separately.
Two years ago it was reported that Andrey Arshavin, who earns 80,000 a week, was renegotiating his Arsenal contract after being ‘unpleasantly surprised’ at his income tax bill; in his native Russia, tax was only 13 per cent.
But it will be the scrutiny of the complex payment structure which will most trouble directors.
All avenues: Russian winger Andrey Arshavin (left), in action for Arsenal, renegotiated his contract after being 'unpleasantly surprised' by his tax bill. The questionnaire wants to assess whether foreign players are avoiding tax
The questionnaire asks: ‘Are any payments made into trusts or sub-trusts, whether in the UK or abroad, for which employees or family members are, or are potentially, the beneficiaries’ This underlines the Revenue’s determination to get to the bottom of the methods for paying foreign players.
But clubs could also have problems with the schemes used to benefit domestic players.
It was reported last year that Manchester United star Rooney saved almost 600,000 over the past two years by using a tax loophole which was also exploited by other top footballers after Labour announced the 50p top rate of income tax.
Exposed: Last week's revelations in the Mail on Sunday
Under the scheme, the players have two contracts with clubs. One pays them a salary, while the other is for ‘image rights’ – earnings from shirts and other merchandising.
These royalties are paid into a company set up by the individual player which is liable for only 28 per cent tax.
Loans to players are also the subject of HMRC inquiry, along with fines such as last week’s 200,000 punishment to Rooney for dining out on Boxing Day.
The HMRC said: ‘We believe there is a risk of tax being lost as a result of either poor tax administration or abuse of the rules. We think the clubs are keen to help us resolve these concerns.’
ROONEY CUTS TAX BILL BY INVESTING IN OFFICE PARK
Attractive move: Rooney's investment in an urban renewal project has cut his tax bill
Wayne Rooney has cut his tax bill by investing in an office park which benefits from special government rules designed to encourage urban renewal.
The striker is among more than 20 Premier League players and managers – including Aaron Lennon, Florent Malouda and Arsene Wenger – who have helped pour 78 million into the business estate in Newcastle upon Tyne.
The Cobalt Business Park is in an enterprise zone, which means the stars can write off part of their income tax bill against the cost of building a new data storage centre on the site.
Enterprise Zones are an attempt to regenerate rundown areas by giving investors generous financial breaks.
An HM Revenue & Customs spokesman said: ‘The tax reliefs encourage those in a position to invest to do so, and this includes wealthy footballers.
‘We closely monitor how tax reliefs are used and we crack down hard on any genuine abuse.’
Chas Roy-Chowdhury, of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, said: ‘This kind of scheme is very attractive to affluent individuals with a large amount of spare cash.
'These stars are able to reduce their tax liability in the short term and benefit from long-term rental income once their playing careers are over.’
Two years ago, The Mail on Sunday revealed that Rooney was among a number of sports personalities and TV stars who were exploiting a legal tax loophole by investing in a film financing fund which was later investigated by HM Revenue & Customs.
Rooney’s spokesman was unable to comment.