Rangers FC – A Crash Course In Tax Avoidance?

For those with an interest in Scottish football having some knowledge of the world of tax affairs would have been a necessity to get your head around the ongoing Rangers story.

In days gone by being a football fan meant knowing all about formations, transfer rumours and the offside rule but now it seems you need to have a masters in accounting and finance as the Scottish football media spend more and more time discussing the legalities of Employee Benefit Trusts, HMRC investigations and dual contracts.

Just when you thought the Rangers crisis had run its course after dominating the headlines all summer with the new look club now taking its place in the third division the much talked about ‘big tax case’ rears its ugly head with the news that HMRC will announce in October their verdict over the clubs use of EBT’s resulting in a unpaid tax bill of around £49 million.

And in November the three man SPL appointed independent tribunal will deliver their verdict on whether the Ibrox club broke any rules using the scheme with possible punishments including the stripping of titles.

The Scottish football community appears to be split on this matter with Rangers supporters taking the view their club committed no offences and talk of the stripping of titles should be rubbished.

Whilst fans of other clubs are keen to see what they perceive as natural justice for a club who committed financial doping to help it stay at the top of the Scottish game and thus must face punishment for the crimes committed under the stewardship of Sir David Murray.

Charles Green, the Rangers Chief Executive, has claimed the SPL have no authority on this matter and contends the club will fight tooth and nail to keep hold of their honours whilst also hinting that there is a hidden agenda against the Ibrox club.

Green takes the view, held by a growing number of Gers fans, that Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell is behind an ongoing campaign to hurt his old rivals using his power and influence in the SPL to recruit those with anti-Rangers views to investigate the clubs use of dual contracts.

Serious questions are being asked about the background too of SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan, a close friend of Lawwell, of the SPL’s hiring of the lawyers firm Harper Macleod, a legal firm who have acted on behalf of Celtic and now details are surfacing of the work carried out by Manus Joseph Fullerton, a former Lloyds TSB executive director, who was responsible for supervising the account of Rangers FC during the latter part of David Murray’s ownership of the club.

Fullerton is a self confessed Celtic obsessive and for the Rangers supporters this is further evidence that their beloved club is the victim of an ongoing campaign to tarnish their reputation whilst they are in the process of attempting to rebuild their reputation and rise from the ashes after the embarrassment of liquidation.

Those supporting Rangers’ case say the club did not commit any offences in offering around 53 of their former employees the use of an EBT as their accounts were signed off year in year out by both the SFA and SFA.

It is a messy affair and judgement in both the HMRC and SPL cases will be eagerly anticipated but whatever verdicts are granted the fact of the matter is that Rangers FC have such a massive worldwide appeal that the club should be able to overcome any more hurdles and I will eat my hat if they are not challenging their old foes from Parkhead for dominance of the Scottish game before too long again.

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