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Footballers caught in tax avoidance scheme

In news that confirms we’re all paying our professional athletes altogether too much money, some 400 footballers have been caught using a tax avoidance scheme.

Actually it’s more than 400 footballers at last count that invested their cash into dodgy tax shelters that, on the face of it, were designed to look like they were providing funding for the British film industry only to actually be anything but that. As a result, there are some serious Premier League managers and players that could see tax bills of a combined £1 billion after HMRC drags them all over the coals – and thanks to the whole Accelerated Payments scheme that has those accused of tax avoidance paying up front before an investigation is underway, that cash is likely to come rolling in to Treasury coffers by the shedload.

So far no one’s coming out and saying that any of your boyhood heroes have been cheating Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs out of its due on purpose. All these firms presented themselves as the real deal – and that makes it worse if you ask me. You’ve got luminaries like David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and even Sir Alex Ferguson all getting fingered in these new allegations, and they truly are being victimised as much as anyone else here. Then again, if they had simply paid their taxes like big boys instead of investing their income in side businesses they wouldn’t be in the hot seat right now.

Listen, I’m not saying I might not have done the same thing. If you presented me to save £400,000 in income tax by investing £1 million into a firm that for all intents and purposes looked to be on the up-and-up – and one that would help the British film industry produce cinema-worthy movies – I might have taken the bait as well.

The problem is that a few of these schemes were used as tax shelters. Investors put their money into projects that don’t make enough money to turn a profit but enough to return their investment cash means that they avoid paying taxes completely, and there’s been a bit of that going about. Sink your cash into a film you know is going to bomb, and then get out with your initial investment intact – voila. Instant tax cheat. Just add litigation.

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