7th June 2017
Oh Lionel. Off the pitch it’s not been the best year for the Argentinian ace and while his goal scoring exploits have kept him on the back pages, his tax fraud status has made front page headlines yet again.
A Messi state of affairs
When he’s not busy carving his way through an opposition’s defence or putting a chance on a plate for one of his more human teammates, Messi has been spending a fair amount of time in court in recent months over his part in a tax fraud scheme which utilised havens in Belize and Uruguay between 2007 and 2009. Both the player and his father have already been given heavy fines as a result of their role in the €4.1m scheme, although Jorge Messi’s fine was reduced because he paid some of his outstanding taxes.
Prison for tax fraud
However, that wasn’t enough for the footballer who was initially given a 21-month jail term by Spain’s Supreme Court and who recently had his appeal against the sentence rejected. Fortunately for Messi– and his employer – in Spain, prison terms under two years can be served under probation, meaning he’ll be kept on the pitch and out of jail.
That hasn’t stopped him from receiving some significant criticism, with Supreme Court officials reported as saying, “It defies logical to concede that someone who earns a large income does not know that he must pay taxes on it.” Messi refuted that suggestion insisting, “I only worried about playing football.”
Tax Evasion FC
Tax is probably a regularly discussed topic in the Barcelona dressing room. Regular readers of our blog will know that Messi is far from the first Catalan-based player to land himself in hot water. In recent months teammate and compatriot, Javier Mascherano, has admitted to tax fraud while his strike partner, Neymar, is facing allegations of corruption and fraud over his transfer to the club in 2013. And on top of that, just this week former president, Sandro Rosell was arrested as part of a money laundering investigation.
While this might suggest that Barcelona players should consider hiring different tax advisers, it also highlights that nobody is safe regardless of the scale of their earnings, their network or the power of their employer. Fortunately for the football club – and unlike the UK – Spain hasn’t yet put a law similar to the Criminal Finance Bill in place, so Barcelona are safe from potentially being impacted by a criminal conviction and unlimited fine. If you’re worried that your agency’s tax affairs are in a Mess(i), or if you’re at all unsure about your status wherever you’re placing contractors, then get in touch with the specialists.