UK tax office takes victory over Premier League referees


The British tax authorities have won an appeal linked to their long battle to reclassify Premier League and FA Cup referees as employees.

The victory clears the way for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to collect back taxes for payments made by Professional Game Match Officials Limited to arbitrators for unpaid income tax and national insurance contributions, a UK tax on employment which will soon be increased.

The lower courts “erred in law in their approach to the issue of reciprocity of obligations in individual contracts” and the first level court “erred in law in their approach to the issue of control in contracts Individuals ”, England and Wales Court of Appeal, Judge Sir Nicholas Patten said in his judgement published Friday.

PGMOL, established in 2001, helps organize the officials of football matches, including the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and international matches.

It classifies 30,000 referees into 10 categories, from trainees to international standards. Of these, PGMOL employs full-time referees and part-time referees known as Tier 1, during the two years 2014-15 and 2015-2016 mainly covering Premier League matches.

Part-time arbitrators, who are the subject of the appeal, typically combine arbitration with full-time jobs in other fields. There were 60 of these umpires in 2014-15.

The tax office argued that these arbitrators were under contract and performed the work of salaried workers and should have paid income tax and national insurance contributions on payments made to them by PGMOL. During the years 2014-15 and 2015-16, to which the case relates, they owe 583,874 pounds ($ 805,000) excluding interest.

PGMOL appealed, and in a 2018 judgement the FTT sided with the company, concluding that HMRC had failed to prove that the contracts in question showed that PGMOL had control over the part-time arbitrators.

HMRC appealed to the tax chamber of the Upper Tier Tribunal, which, in May 2020 upheld the lower court judgment. HMRC then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which today ruled that the two lower courts erred in law by not correctly applying the threshold criteria to determine the difference between a contractor and an employee.

HMRC declined to comment. PGMOL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Revenue and Customs v Professional Game Match Officials Ltd [2021].

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