HMRC, the British government tax office, has reported a steep rise in the number of probes into UK footballers' tax affairs, according to figures released today.
The figures, released by London-based accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, show the number of tax probes into individual professional football players for the tax year 2019-20 rose to 246 from just 87 investigations in 2018-19.
The UK premier league players are taxed at 45% on their salaries, yet only 19% on image rights, a discrepancy that tax authorities have argued is creating a loophole.
HMRC believes that lots of lesser-known footballers are effectively avoiding tax by getting paid huge sums for image rights that HMRC views as overpriced."
HMRC also reported 55 investigations into football clubs, with total revenue from investigations into the sector reaching £73m in the last tax year.
Elliot Buss, a partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: "HMRC believes that lots of lesser-known footballers are effectively avoiding tax by getting paid huge sums for image rights that HMRC views as overpriced."
"The image rights of the likes of Paul Pogba and Mohamed Salah are undoubtedly worth millions of pounds a year. However, if you are second-choice left back in the Championship getting paid a great deal in image-rights payments, then this is likely to trigger an investigation by the taxman."
"You may have to make a robust argument to HMRC to show how the value of the image rights has been arrived at."
In a statement, HMRC said: "We're clear that everyone must pay what they owe under the law — regardless of their wealth, status or job. The department's work in the football industry is a demonstration of this ongoing effort to help support the football industry and their members."