Rangers tax case: questions over HMRC's motivation

THE TAXMAN voted against the compulsory voluntary arrangement (CVA) offered by Rangers to ensure an investigation into the conduct of its owners and directors, including Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte, it has been claimed.

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HMRC started a detailed probe into Rangers financial affairs after the club went into liquidation in June 2012
HMRC started a detailed probe into Rangers financial affairs after the club went into liquidation in June 2012

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on Wednesday lost its latest legal fight over a claim that Rangers were liable for a £46.2 million bill over the club's use of a scheme to make payments to its employees.

Placing the club's operating company into the hands of the liquidators in June 2012 allowed the tax authority to conduct a detailed independent probe into its financial affairs over the past two decades and the conduct of its directors and owners.

The details of the investigation emerged as a group of fans consider setting up a fighting fund to take legal action against the taxman for the damage done to the club by the so-called Big Tax Case.

HMRC, which has a month to decide whether it will embark on an appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session, would not comment on the fans' concerns.

But an HMRC source said: "The company, Rangers Football Club Plc, did not go into liquidation because of this tax case. It is a matter of public record that Rangers was placed in administration by its principal shareholder and director because it was unable to pay its creditors, including HMRC. HMRC voted against the CVA proposed by the administration. Liquidation allows a full investigation into the conduct of the owners and financial officers of the company, which would not be possible in a CVA.

"It wouldn't be the case that HMRC would vote down a CVA based on wanting directors' conduct to be looked as a general rule, as happened with Rangers."

The behaviour of the board in the three years prior to the operating company going into administration in February 2012 was already being looked at by the Insolvency Service's Investigations and Enforcement Directorate.

The HMRC has failed to successfully argue that payments made through Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) to players, managers and other employees should be taxable.

Sir David's Murray International Holdings (MIH), which formerly owned Rangers, said they were loans and therefore exempt.

Enraged Rangers fans maintain the case led to the sale of the club to Whyte, the operating company's fall into liquidation and demotion to the third division.

They are now questioning the taxman's motivation for chasing the costly case when there was very little chance of recovering any money.

There is also interest in why HMRC began to target the club in the spring of 2010, nine years after the club starting using the scheme, and as EBT loopholes were being closed.

The payments were publicly documented. The club's annual report for 2008 highlights the Murray Group Management Ltd Remuneration Trust while the Rangers Employee Benefit Trust has also been used. In the financial year of 2008, for example, £2.29m was contributed to employee trusts with £4.98m paid by the club a year earlier.

Drew Roberton of the Rangers Supporters' Association said: "There has to be a public inquiry into the HMRC behaviour in all this, looking into their motivation behind all this."

In a statement, Rangers Football Club said that it shared the views of fans that much of what took place at the club following the start of the investigation was "avoidable."

It reads: "We are pleased to see the end of this sorry chapter in the history of Rangers FC, yet our greatest sympathy is with those who felt the pain of the last four years the most - our supporters.

"Our focus is on rebuilding the football club and getting Rangers back to where we belong."

Football

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