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HMRC look again at the role of agents in football
6th July, 2021
HMRC look again at the role of agents in football
Football agents or intermediaries as they prefer to be called, play an extremely important role in the life of a footballer – both on and off the pitch. Although intermediaries are often associated as being connected solely with the footballer, they also form key relationships with the clubs and are instrumental in assisting them bringing certain key players to the clubs.
HM Revenue & Customs (“HMRC”) are now taking a closer look at the relationship between the three entities. In particular, the Dual Representation Agreements between Clubs, Intermediaries and Players.
Dual Representation Agreements
A dual-representation agreement is where an intermediary provides services to a club and services to the player in the same transaction. For example, during a transfer to a club or when negotiating a contract extension.
Typically, a player will have a contract solely with an intermediary before any negotiation with a club begins. As such, as part of the dual representation agreement, the terms of any pre-existing personal representation between the intermediary and the player are varied and the intermediaries fee that would typically be paid solely by the player is split instead into fees on behalf of the player and the club. This reflects the substance of what has occurred – that the intermediary is no longer acting exclusively for the player in respect of the transaction.
The football club will typically pay the intermediary fees on behalf of the player and on behalf of the club themselves. The payment of these fees by the club creates a pecuniary tax liability on the player upon which the player is subject to tax as a benefit in kind and which they will need to include on their tax returns.
The amount of the fees paid on behalf of the player and therefore the amount of tax due them is a point of contention with HMRC.
Historical HMRC Position
When HMRC initially reviewed Dual Representation Agreements, their starting point was that 100% of the intermediary fees paid by the club were on behalf of the player. Football clubs did not agree and said that both the clubs and the footballers benefitted from the intermediary. In fact, it was the football clubs initial view that, not only were fees paid in consideration of services to the club but that also those fees were far in excess of those for services to the player.
A compromise was reached, and it was agreed that the payment of agent’s fees was split on 50/50 basis between the clubs and the players. This would mean that a detailed review would not need be undertaken on each transaction.
At the time, the industry standard agent fee was 5% of the value of the contract. As such it was agreed that 2.5% was in relation to services to the football club and 2.5% would be in relation to the player.
Change of HMRC Position
Over time, HMRC’s position in respect of Dual Representation Agreements has changed.
They are beginning to take the position that any pre-existing personal representation agreement entered into between the player and the intermediary establishes the entitlement of the intermediary and the obligation of the intermediary in respect of every transaction they enter into. Including the Dual representation agreement.
For example, if a player pays their agent a 5% commission on other transactions (such as an advertising deal), then HMRC argue that this should remain the same for the Dual Representation Agreement.
This could result in a greater tax liability for players.
This position could lead to peculiarities within the dual representation agreement. If the total intermediary fee is 5% and this is the same amount that the intermediary and player have for other transactions, then HMRC would expect the whole amount to be allocated to the player and no amount of the fee is allocated to the football club. This is despite the intermediary providing services to both parties, such as guiding both parties on the likelihood of acceptable terms.
Neither we nor football clubs agree with HMRC’s position. The role provided by intermediaries on the football club’s behalf are increasingly important. Due to the high value of certain players and the increased number of clubs who can afford their services, intermediaries play a huge part in bringing the two parties together. Football clubs see this service as invaluable and therefore view the cost of the service in excess to the service the intermediary provides the player as part of the dual representation agreement.
If HMRC continue with their current position in respect of Dual Representation Agreements, it will result in an increased number of enquiries opened into footballer’s tax returns. HMRC will look to increase the amount of the pecuniary liability declared on the player’s returns in relation to the intermediaries’ services paid for by the club.
HMRC are taking an increased look at football transactions, particularly the intermediaries’ fees split between club and player when a dual representation agreement is entered into.
Clubs, intermediaries and players should be aware that HMRC’s position does not accurately portray the reality of the agreement, as they are attempting to allocate more of the fees towards players rather than clubs. This would lead to a greater tax bill for the player.
Players should seek specialist advice if this occurs, enquiries by HMRC can lead to further questions into other aspects of the player tax returns, which can cause unnecessary stress.
If you would like to discuss the matters contained in the article, or any other matters concerning the taxation of sportspersons – please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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