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Tax man homing in on HNWIs

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A play for premier league footballers through image rights is the latest in HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) initiatives to ensure that the correct amount of tax is collected from high-net-worth individuals.

The announcement, made earlier this month, follows concerns raised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the tax man isn’t tackling HNWIs hard enough as far as squeezing every penny due from them is concerned.

The renewed focus on footballers’ image rights shows that this issue is not going to simply go away and clubs and players should be ready for HMRC to challenge arrangements where they take the view that certain structures and remuneration packages are not compliant with anti-avoidance legislation.

The tax man is increasingly looking at those they perceive as enabling and facilitating tax evasion and avoidance, which has come back into the news following revelations that Panama firm Mossack Fonseca had a number of megastar footballers and actors on their books.

Amongst the big names uncovered in the Panama Papers scandal are Lionel Messi, who is already facing tax fraud charges in Spain, at least 20 other footballers from European ‘super teams’ and actor Jackie Chan.

As names of the firm’s clients continue to emerge, it has been revealed that many millionaire footballers have been funnelling cash to offshore havens through Mossack Fonseca, including Premier League star Leonardo Ulloa, who was top scorer last year for Leicester City.

In addition to the names already disclosed through the leak about the firm, thought to be the biggest ever, are six members of the House of Lords and three former Conservative MPs, although none has been named so far since papers referring to them were discovered this month.