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HMRC launches crackdown on cricket clubs

Well, it’s finally happened – with reports of HMRC targeting cricket clubs, the government is officially leaving no stone unturned in its quest for revenue.

The taxman is reportedly going after cricket clubs left and right, if reports rolling in from Hampshire Cricket Board can be believed. In fact, the Board’s Southern Electric Premier League has three of its clubs currently under investigation for possible tax avoidance. Critics of the move have dubbed HMRC’s move as trying to institute some sort of ‘cricket club tax’ as a pretense for wringing just a few more pennies from people and organisations who have already paid their fair share.

Tax inspectors have visited Burridge, Bournemouth and Alton, and St Cross Symondians and have begun poring over their accounting practices, looking for evidence of untaxed earnings to anyone affiliated with the club. This includes coaches, bar workers, or anyone who might have done a bit of contracting for a cricket club once or twice over the past year or so; so far there have been more than a few tax bills issued, some as high as £15,000 or more – leading to concerns that these massive, unexpected costs could place the future of more than a few clubs in serious jeopardy.

Of course there’s plenty of people, like me, pointing out the obvious: why in the world is HMRC going after small-time sports clubs like this? Last time I checked, a £15,000 tax bill is nothing in comparison to the hundreds of millions – or even billions – that multinationals such as Google and Amazon owe the UK government.

The official line from HMRC is that the taxman works very hard to make sure that any employer in the UK is paying the proper amount of tax, and inspectors are fully qualified to investigate a given company’s payroll system to ensure that this is exactly what’s happening. However, if this is so why has Starbucks been conveniently avoiding paying billions in taxes for years?

The truth is – at least how I see it – is that tax loopholes prevent HMRC going after the big fish, so instead they go send their tax collectors out in droves to recover that lost revenue piecemeal from anywhere and everywhere they can, and this includes organisations such as local cricket clubs. Meanwhile if the government wasn’t so damned afraid of these firms pulling up tent stakes and moving out of the country if those tax loopholes were closed, maybe we wouldn’t have this problem any more!

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