We Pay the Price When HMRC Bends Rules for Football Clubs

Accusations of corporate tax avoidance have plagued Top Shop owner Sir Philip Green and telecommunication giants Vodaphone in recent weeks, but football clubs are often the worst offenders.

Take Plymouth Argyle for instance. The League One club has managed to accrue a whopping £7 million of debt including an £800,000 liability from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

At the High Court in London earlier this month, a judge extended the deadline to pay HMRC until 9 February 2011.

Understandably, the fans are concerned. Staff wages remain unpaid since October and there’s been little communication from directors since the club first received a winding up petition over eight weeks ago.

Furthermore, it’s unlikely the proposed sale of players and property would generate enough funds to clear the tax bill.

If this were a company other than a football club, I doubt they’d be awarded an eight-week reprieve. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs; it’s as if insolvency legislation somehow doesn’t apply to English football.

Can you think of another business sector the taxman shows such leniency towards?

It’s amazing how many times you read about HMRC serving a football club with a winding up petition, but yet they continue trading and don’t have their bank accounts frozen.

Even if the reason is that HMRC are simply ardent football fans, that’s still not fair on businessmen and taxpayers who are losing out on revenue. Perhaps you’ve never realised that your tax contributions funds football clubs?

The truth is you, the taxpayer, fund all businesses that avoid tax bills and football clubs are some of the most notorious offenders – and we’re left with the tab.

Plymouth’s stay of execution buys some time, but if the club fails to raise enough money the debt increases and presumably the winding up process will continue.