Celebrities and tax

It has been said that we at Accountancy Age tend to put pictures of celebrities on the front page, however tenuously we can link them to the story we’re writing about. I’d suggest we only do so as much as the rest of the media, but the point may be fair in some respects.

I only mention it as I think our story about Richard & Judy last week had something more substantive to say. The couple are involved in a tax dispute with HM Revenue & Customs, which I understand may be on a point of general principle of interest to other taxpayers. We don’t know what it is yet sadly, as nobody is telling us. The Mirror had a few more details on Monday, and anyone who wants to post anonymously below is very welcome, of course!

Celebrities are not infrequently involved in tax disputes. With the help of John Whiting, I’ve come up with a few other well-known celebrities who’ve gone head to head with the tax authorities.

Peter Shilton is one. Shilton won a case in the late 1980s over ehwther or not a payoff by Nottingham Forest as part of his transfer to Southampton was taxable. It wasn’t because Forest had no interest in the performance of his new contract at Southampton, it was held. (N.B.- Shilton then lost in the Lords – see above)

David Frost, the broadcaster, had a dispute in the 1970s on earnings from US screenings of the David Frost Show.

There have been discussions for many years also about whether or not testimonial earnings for footballers and cricketers and others might be taxable. I can’t find details of any case, though there was a row over testimonials for Alex Ferguson a few years ago.

John says Bobby Moore was involved in a case over a World Cup bonus too, which he won. If our footballers win this year, will they also be challenged on bonus earnings by the revenue, I wonder? I wouldn’t be surprised.

He mentioned Sir Laurence Olivier too, and a payment made for not making various films.

He thinks there are a reasonable number of such cases. ‘You are talking useful money [with these people]. There’s also some quite interesting principles at stake.’

Others disagree. Julian Hedley of Tenon, who handled Andre Agassi’s recent case over sponsorship income, says those in the public eye are very reluctant to court attention on their finances. ‘They are very reluctant. They don’t want the publicity. Nor do they want all their financial affairs laid bare in front of the world.’

I can understand that. Anyone with more details on the tax cases mentioned above, or with ideas of other public figures who’ve contested points with the revenue (rather than been pursued for tax fraud, for instance), feel free to post them below. Making sure it’s not libellous, of course…

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