England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is looking at a £3.5m (US$4.3m) tax bill after HM Revenue & Customs said that it is challenging a suspected tax avoidance scheme in which he was a large investor.
Adding to his current on field woes, where Rooney is under pressure to be dropped for both club and country, he now faces a challenge relating to his investments for the fifth occasion in four years.
As reported in The Times, Rooney, who has been dropped to the bench for England’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovenia tomorrow night, has been told by HMRC that he now owes the money and must pay up.
The investment that the tax bill relates to was a film partnership called Invite 43 that gave tax relief for investors. Rights to Hollywood films such as Fred Claus and 10,000 BC were bought by the company and investors were told that they were able to claim tax relief on the purchases.
According to The Times report, Rooney was advised to join the scheme by Financial Management Group (FMG), a company that has now ceased trading and described as a wealth management group that was at one time chaired by former Liverpool player and manager Kenny Dalglish.
Rooney, 30, who has denied the allegations of tax evasion is not the only footballer to fall foul of such “tax efficient” investments, according to the report.
Last year, it was revealed that more than 100 footballers were in severe financial difficulty after demands from HMRC for repayment of disputed tax relief. Xpro, the welfare organisation for former players, said that 20 faced potential bankruptcy and the prospect of homelessness.
One example, The Times said, is that of Dean Windass, 47, the former Middlesbrough, Hull and Bradford City player, who faced a preliminary bankruptcy hearing over an outstanding £164,000 tax bill. Windass, who invested in three film schemes, has said he is “not a tax avoider and will fight this to the very end”.
Last year it was reported that Rooney repaid £500,000 to the Revenue over an unnamed scheme. A spokesperson for Rooney said: “Wayne’s tax affairs have always been conducted in full compliance with the law. There is no suggestion Rooney will have trouble paying his tax.”