Football stars face a tax bill crackdown

ENGLAND footballer Wayne Rooney is amongst Premier League stars under scrutiny from tax inspectors for avoiding thousands of pounds in tax.

A crackdown on more than 50 players was sparked after HM Revenue & Customs found some stars had been using complex legal loopholes and accountants to legally avoid paying the 50 per cent top rate of tax.

The footballers evaded the 50 per cent higher tax bracket by setting up companies for lucrative image rights royalties to be paid into, before taking out loans from them that carry a 28 per cent corporation tax rate.

Manchester United star Rooney paid as little as two per cent on a loan taken out from his image rights company, saving him almost £600,000.

The HMRC crackdown is part of a long history of fraught relations between highly paid footballers and the taxman.

In 2005, Arsenal was forced to pay nearly £12m in tax after it set up a series of front companies and offshore trusts to reward its stars.

A Revenue and Customs spokesman said: “HMRC are well aware of attempts to use image rights as well as other schemes to avoid the 50p rate of tax.

“The taxation of image rights is a complex area, where the tax treatment will very much depend on the facts of the particular case.

“The Government has made an additional £900m available to HMRC to ensure the tax rules are respected across the board.”