HMRC is currently investigating 171 professional football players, up 90% from just 90 players under investigation in September 2017, as it looks to crackdown on the misuse of image rights payments.

The success of HMRC’s specialist Football Compliance Project so far means more and more football players can expect their tax affairs to come under scrutiny. HMRC has already collected £332m in additional revenue from investigations into the football industry in the last two years alone, and a further 44 league clubs and 31 football agents are also currently under investigation.

Investigations can be hugely costly, time consuming and stressful for any taxpayer. This is especially true for high profile professional sportspeople, as an investigation could result in the termination of sponsorship deals. They are, however, avoidable.

HMRC’s focus on the football industry was sharpened following a 2017 House of Commons Report which concluded that tax avoidance in the sport was becoming widespread. The report also talked about the misuse of image rights payments, both in sport and the entertainment industry.

Image rights enable players to exploit their image for commercial value through sponsorships and endorsements. Since 2000, players have been able to treat income from playing and income from image rights separately, allowing them to establish image rights companies to receive this income.

Image rights companies can form part of a responsible tax plan for football players, but it is imperative that they are structured correctly and compliantly.

If you would like an advice on tax structures, personal or corporate, or have any concerns regarding HMRC investigations, please get in touch with a member of our dedicated tax team.

Our tax services team are on hand to help you plan a tailored and tax-efficient approach to every aspect of your business and personal life, recognising the importance of handling your tax affairs in a correct and timely manner to avoid non-compliance and unnecessary penalties.