Tax affairs of England cricket team investigated

MEMBERS OF THE ENGLAND CRICKET TEAM could face an investigation by the taxman amid allegations they could be exploiting a loophole to mitigate their tax liabilities.

Squad members such as captain Andrew Strauss and former skipper Kevin Pietersen will be questioned as part of an inquiry by HM Revenue & Customs into the use of image rights companies by cricketers, reports the Daily Mail.

Image rights are based on the idea a sports star’s name has a value separate to their exploits on the field of play.

Many big-name athletes seek to earn a portion of their money based on their image and reputation.

Nearly all county players in England and Wales hold England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB)-approved contracts, which state their club owns their image rights.

Investigators are reported to have met with representatives of the ECB and have written to the leading 18 county sides to request details on how their players are paid.

The move comes after a similar investigation into the affairs of players at Premier League football clubs and will focus on service companies set up by sports stars to handle their earnings from commercial deals and sponsorship.

James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Eoin Morgan, Steven Finn, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Andrew Strauss and Graeme Swann, who are all contracted to the ECB, have companies of this kind, according to the Companies House register.

Their agents insist they have not yet been contacted by HMRC over the matter and added that earnings from playing cricket are not paid to those service companies.

However, the taxman is concerned that some players are putting a disproportionate amount of their salaries into the image rights companies, allowing them to pay corporation tax at 24% instead of PAYE at 45% for those on more than £150,000 per annum.

There is, though, no suggestion that any player has engaged in tax avoidance.

Revenue & Customs said: “We want clear explanations from cricket clubs as to why they think image rights payments are acceptable.

“This is not a formal investigation at the moment.”

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