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HMRC pursues Gary Lineker in £4.9m IR35 case

HMRC pursues Gary Lineker in £4.9m IR35 case

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker has found himself in a court battle with HM Revenue & Customs over a potential tax bill of £4.9m.

Lineker, a former footballer who made 80 appearances for England, has been accused by HMRC of passing himself off as a freelancer in his role as a TV presenter even though he was, effectively, employed.

The former striker hosts Match of the Day on the BBC and BT Sport's Champions League coverage.

The case puts Lineker at odds with HMRC over the IR35 rules, which were introduced in 2000 to crack down on "disguised employment", often through freelancers supplying their services to clients through an intermediary, such as a limited company.

HMRC claims Lineker - through the company Gary Lineker Media which the TV presenter set up with his former wife Danielle Bux - owes £3,621,735.90 in income tax and £1,313,755.38 in national insurance contributions.

Speaking to FTAdviser's sister publication, the Financial Times, Lineker's agent Jon Holmes said: “It is a question of whether he is employed by the BBC or not.

“Most people, once they understand employment law, would say of course he isn’t. He works for many other people.”

This is the latest in a series of cases HMRC has bought to court over IR35 - through it has lost several of these cases.

TV presenters Kaye Adams, Lorraine Kelly and Helen Fospero, as well as IT consultant Richard Alcock,  all won their cases against HMRC. Broadcaster Eamonn Holmes lost his case, though he is appealing.

Dave Chaplin, chief executive of ContractorCalculator, said: “Once again, we are seeing a high-profile celebrity being targeted by HMRC in a misguided attempt to shore up the Treasury’s coffers.

"The fact is that high paid freelancers like Gary Lineker now pay more tax by operating via a limited company than an employee on the same salary.

"HMRC continues to carry out a witch hunt on high profile media stars and fails to grasp the simple concept that there is a freelance premium, and because of this, freelancers end up generating more in tax by operating this way compared to employment.

"HMRC should be thanking freelancers for their contributions, not victimising them as tax avoiders using this cruel legislation."

HMRC told the FT that it did not comment on identifiable taxpayers or ongoing proceedings but that it had recently won a number of "important" cases.

damian.fantato@ft.com