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The players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, has told its members they should negotiate collectively with Government over a wide-ranging tax investigation into players and the fees paid to agents.
Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, has written to all professional footballers to notify them that he had appointed the union’s legal firm of choice to “establish some agreed principles and parameters” with HM Revenue and Customs over agents’ fees. It is understood some players are receiving large, unexpected bills related to the commission paid to agents on transfers.
In his letter, Taylor states that the matter relates to the “long-standing and widespread ‘dual-representation’ approach” in which an agent nominally acts for the player and the club, that can reduce the player’s tax liability on his agent’s fee.
The PFA has told its members that it has been made aware that HMRC is looking into the fees paid by clubs to agents – known officially as “intermediaries”.
“It has come to our attention that many elements of these enquiries are very similar in nature,” Taylor writes, “and that there are some common themes which may be best addressed centrally and on behalf of the players as a collective.” The PFA says it is seeking a “centralised” approach to dealing with HMRC to resolve “existing/historic matters”.
Dual representation is permitted under Football Association guidelines laid down by Fifa. Most commonly these agreements mean that players are liable for 50 per cent of the tax on the fee paid to their agents by a club over a transfer or contract renegotiation, on the basis that the intermediary has worked equally for both parties. That was considered a
benefit-in-kind payment for the player and taxed accordingly.
However, it is understood that some players may now have been told by HMRC they are liable to be taxed for the full amount of those agents’ fees, landing them with large bills. HMRC is investigating individual cases and whether the purported 50-50 split is indeed representative of the deal in question.
The PFA has instructed law firm Centrefield, and one of its partners Edward Canty, who is a director of PFA Enterprises, a company operated by the PFA.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “We continue to work with the football industry, including the PFA, to educate players, clubs and agents about the tax risks associated with agent fees and other income related to their profession.”