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Good result for Rangers against HMRC

Tax position ruled as legal

25 November ~ Rangers fans feel like King Pyrrhus after his infamous victory over the Romans. Tuesday's ruling against HM Revenue and Customs by the First Tier Tax Tribunal found the controversial Employee Benefit Trust system used to pay Ibrox employees between 2001 and 2010 was in fact legal. The key factor in Rangers' financial collapse has been declared bogus. Some Bluenoses have been posting and phoning their "delight" with the verdict. One can only assume the barrage of contempt coming their way since February's slip into administration has left them living only to disprove the accusations of "financial doping".

A commission will still investigate whether Rangers breached SPL rules during the EBT period but the stripping of past titles is now unlikely. 

This may bring some vindication but absolutely no pleasure. It’s only shared memories that will remain inviolate. The Rangers Football Club plc has been found not liable for most of a £47.65 million tax bill. But that same plc is in the process of being liquidated, its assets transferred to the new company which restarted Rangers' life in the Scottish Third Division.

HMRC is considering an appeal and some Rangers fans may actually hope the taxman is eventually proved right. Losing the club has been horrendous – losing it on the basis of a debt that never was is downright unbearable. Craig Whyte, who bought Rangers from Sir David Murray in 2011, drove Rangers into administration through non-payment of PAYE. However, the cloud of financial fragility which accommodated Whyte’s asset-stripping came from a projected ruling in favour of HMRC in this epic dispute. Murray always claimed the EBTs, which he introduced, were legal. He’s now urging that the anonymous bloggers and HMRC sources who leaked misinformation about the case are found and punished.

Non-Rangers fans are quick to point out that Rangers were actually found liable for a small amount of tax and the ruling was a majority rather than unanimous decision by the three-judge tribunal. The 145-page document detailing the decision is available on the internet. Its impenetrable legalese has been reinterpreted by laptop Celtic fans as proving Rangers guilty of crimes against humanity.

Furthermore the First Tier Tribunal findings were posited on Rangers making loans rather than paid earnings to big-name staff. This will not, as first reported, see those loanees – including Sir David himself – billed by the creditors of the liquidated Rangers plc. However, the actual repayment of these "loans" would have saved Rangers.

No Rangers fan doubts tax avoidance is immoral. When we laugh off the notion of former Ibrox stars repaying the EBT loans we tacitly mock Tuesday's ruling. And no reasonable Rangers fan expected or wanted any sympathy for a successful club which operated a sectarian signing policy for half its 140-year history. But Craig Whyte's demolishing of Rangers, an even more immoral clash of football and finance, has also gone unpunished due to evasion and technicalities. Rangers are quits with Scotland’s clubs.
 
HMRC have lost some face and a sum which is loose change to sanctioned tax avoiders like Google and Amazon. Rangers fans lost their club, and an eternally restructuring Scottish football lost all sense of direction, simply because HMRC decided someone big – but not that big – had to be made an example of. Alex Anderson

On the subject...

Comment on 25-11-2012 09:33:41 by McAvennie #735425
Big boys did it and ran away.

And does no WSC sub ever proof AA's Rangers articles and notice the obligatory snide dig at Celtic fans?

Can never write a piece about Rangers without finding a way to express his noxious and hate-filled views on Celtic in some way or another.
Comment on 25-11-2012 11:06:47 by JimDavis #735435
A look through the comments section of the Rangers liquidation articles on this web site will show that most were arguing that the liquidation never had any merit and was just a way avoiding paying debts that the club could afford, but wouldn't, as it would mean a future paying Hibs or Dundee level wages and falling behind Celtic. The fact Rangers won the case, meaning most of the estimated debt was not due is as funny to the causal observer as Celtic's current league form.
But like many, I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the loans will not be pursued. If HMRC or other creditors are still found to be owed substantial money, can they demand the liquidators pursue all debtors?
Comment on 25-11-2012 12:17:17 by donedmundo #735454
As I understand it it wasn't this 'big' tax case that did for Rangers but the 'small' tax case of unpaid PAYE and NI. Rngers did not have enough money to pay this. HMRC refused to accept a fraction of the amount due via administration so the company was liquidated. HMRC may well decide not to pursue the 'big' tax case any further as there is no chance of getting any money.
Comment on 25-11-2012 12:23:32 by Alex Anderson #735457
@McAvennie

"Noxious and hate-filled"? What, you mean like the kind of person who would commit crimes against humanity? Are you reading this on your laptop?

As Bart and Lisa would say, I know you are but what am I?

Don't worry, Macca, there will be plenty Rangers fans who think I'm being snidey in having a go only at "laptop Celtic fans" - as if I'm saying there are actually some Celtic fans out there who're okay!!

And the big boys who did it were, for me, the knee-jerk loyal within the Rangers support. You come across as a fan of my rants so while you haven't noticed my complete lack of triumphalism in this instance, nor my cognisance of who it was who brought the whole EBT affair to Ibrox in the first place, maybe you'll remember me previously talking about the "we deserve better" crowd pushing Sir Dave to the point where he HAD to employ a tax dodge to give them the impossible glories on a budget they were demanding.
Comment on 25-11-2012 12:43:43 by multipleman78 #735469
@donedmundo

Yes, the reason for administration was the small tax case but the biggest reason for the lack of buyers to take on the club was surely the threat of a massive tax bill hanging over the club. Why would anyone invest in a club that could possibly be over 100 million in debt. That led to Green going down the only road feasible for him at that point, liquidation.
Comment on 25-11-2012 22:47:00 by Conquistador #735634
The Tribunal verdict is hardly a game changer, given that aside from this contested bill Rangers owed something in the region of £86 million. So the final nail (albeit the biggest) in the coffin hasn't been nailed, but the coffin's still there all the same and already six feet (or 3 divisions) under.

As for HMRC making an example of Rangers, that is somewhat unfounded. It was BBC Scotland Investigates that did that, and all they did was make known who benefited from this scheme.

What still mystifies is that the flittering away of such a large amount of money by a club that couldn't afford it, whether it was legal or not, was suicidal. No official intervention can deflect from the fact that Rangers sowed the seeds for their own downfall, not HMRC or the BBC.
Comment on 26-11-2012 11:19:16 by ChrisBud #735716
"However, the cloud of financial fragility which accommodated Whyte’s asset-stripping came from a projected ruling in favour of HMRC in this epic dispute."

Not so - Whyte himself said that it was not the prospect of an unfavourable initial ruling, but rather the prospect of HMRC appealing and appealing again if necessary. And as HMRC looks likely to appeal, the uncertainty will continue for some time to come. The sense of triumphalism over a first instance tribunal decision is entirely misplaced, especially given the identity of the opponents.
Comment on 26-11-2012 12:49:04 by jbulloch #735737
"No Rangers fan doubts tax avoidance is immoral"
I beg to differ - tax evasion is immoral - tax avoidance is what you do to legally reduce your tax bill - are you trying to tell me that anyone who pays more than the minimum requirement into a pension fund or who invests in an ISA (both of which give you tax relief) is immoral? No - I didn't think so.
And with regards to the big tax case not leading to Rangers downfall - I believe it had EVERYTHING to do with it - when the liability was still in doubt no sane invester would step forward to take on the club - hence we were left with a criminal like Craig Whyte who came in and slammed home the nails in the coffin...
Comment on 26-11-2012 13:36:47 by Ranger99 #735749
"Losing the club" hasn't been as taxing as one might think...

Luckily, there's ANOTHER club around that...

Plays at the same stadium as RANGERS
Wears the same jerseys as RANGERS
Carries the same badge as RANGERS
trains at the same complex as RANGERS
plays at the same stadium as RANGERS
sells the same merchandise as RANGERS
shares the massive support base of RANGERS
has the same trophy honours as RANGERS
and...
lo and behold...
are even CALLED...... RANGERS!!

Anyone would think we hadn't "lose the club" at all. Fools.
Comment on 26-11-2012 13:37:24 by Lincoln #735750
"tax avoidance is what you do to legally reduce your tax bill"

That is also a murky subject becasue often the avoidance is not, as many papers have said, perfectly legal. It is presently untested in a court of law by the HRMC because they have quite a lot to deal with. Quite often new schemes are found to be illegal having previously been acceptable because it has taken time to work through the case.
Comment on 26-11-2012 13:46:16 by McAvennie #735751
@Alex Anderson

Wow, quite the vitriolic response there. Could feel the perma-rage seeping out of the screen.

Anger, the default mode of Rangers FC fans, now seemingly adopted by the tribute act The Rangers FC.
Comment on 26-11-2012 14:38:43 by Alex Anderson #735767
Yes, Macca - I always quote The Simpsons when I'm raging. You've got me bang to rights again. Grrrrr ...
Comment on 26-11-2012 15:09:48 by Alex Anderson #735778
@Jbulloch – I’m going to hide behind Lincoln’s response here, mate. Not just because I am by nature a colossal coward, but also because he’s put it so much better than I could. Tax evasion is ILLEGAL – but tax avoidance, certainly in this case, is immoral. Where you’ve got me is that probably not ALL tax avoidance is immoral.

I’ve never pretended to be any kind of accountant and one thing the last year has taught me is that I have absolutely no idea about the world of tax or finance. As soon as you started citing examples I immediately thought about all the cathedrals and castles I’ve visited on rainy summer holidays in years when I couldn’t afford to go abroad, and that little flap on the donation envelope where they ask you to fill in your name and address and tick a box which allows for some sort of tax relief on the restoration project or upkeep of the place (is it gift aid? Could Google it but then I’d come across like someone pretending to know what they’re talking about. Again). So – yeah – absolutely – I can see how not all tax avoidance is immoral. Fair dues.

On that subject – and, again, having a snidey hate-filled dig at every Celtic fan on the planet (and their families, pets and milkmen) – I’ve been amused by how many neo-marxists, avowed rebels and pseudo anti-establishmentarians on the football message boards and airwaves have, in the last couple of years, suddenly decided that they’re fully behind Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs pursuance of taxes. This mass conversion to the cause of “the Man” has been as revealing as the attitude of the 90-minute monarchists and royalists at Ibrox. Me no likey Her Majesty these days either 
Comment on 26-11-2012 15:13:04 by Alex Anderson #735780
@Ranger99 - gawn yerself! Keep telling me what I want to hear pal.
Comment on 26-11-2012 15:32:00 by Alex Anderson #735795
@Chris Bud,

Yup - absolutely no triumphalism here, Chris - especially as this verdict could indeed be appealed and won by HMRC and ...well, all the other stuff I said in the piece. I also wrote a piece for the magazine when the club went into administration, stating Whyte's insistince that the Tax Man would appeal it again and again so there was no point doing so. Yet, love him or hate him, what we all know for sure about Whyte is that he's a criminal with an almost psychotic penchant for lying and he had absolutely no interest in doing anything other than driving the club into the ground as quickly as possible (christ, the desultory sum we got from Everton for jelavic was proof enough of that).

So aside from the fact his statements are utterly worthless, and that Rangers, like any other club, have every right and are almost duty bound to defend themselves on a legal point if they think HMRC are wrong, you've kinda missed my point: As Jbulloch is saying, below, the HMRC case - the projected debt a verdict for the tax man would bring - allowed Whyte to come in and do his thing.

As I've said elsewhere, i think the ultimate blame goes to a culture within the Rangers support which appeared around the turn of the millenium, which meant people were so determined to get rid of David Murray that he couldn't wait to go and eventually just said "right - fu** yese! You want ANY owner as long as it's not me? - well, have this guy".
Comment on 26-11-2012 15:50:15 by ChrisBud #735805
I was not accusing you personally of triumphalism, but much of the media reaction has been exactly that.

However, while much of what Whyte said was nonsense, he was absolutely right about this one, and an appeal filed by HMRC will prove him so.

I haven't missed your point, I just don't agree with it. Murray has been adamant that he would win at tribunal since the outset; it is not just the potential verdict which deterred credible investors, but the continued uncertainty over a prolonged period of time.
Comment on 26-11-2012 19:54:21 by Alex Anderson #735876
fair dues, Chris - but I think HMRC will need to lose an appeal then lodge another one (and maybe even lose that and lodge a third) before Whyte's prediction of "continual" appeals is proven.

And it was the potential verdict - or the fact that the verdict remained "potential" - which created the "continued uncertainty over a prolonged period of time" so I think we're kinda agreeing on that.
Comment on 27-11-2012 16:57:21 by donedmundo #736114
Paying money into a pension fund or an ISA is not tax avoidance. Avoidance is always an artificial transaction. One that no sensible person would get involved with were it not for the tax saving, e.g. Company A owns companies B and C. A lends B £50m at 8%. However the interest is not to be paid to A but to C. B claims tax relief on the interest paid but C claims the money it receives is not taxable because there is no contract between B and C. This scheme does not work, but it gives you a flavour. Avoidance is only available to the rich. I never understand why there is no criticism of the players. They are paid amounts that most fans dare not even dream of but still want more. Every £ they 'avoid' you and I and others like us have to make up.
Rest easy Alex Anderson. When you gift aid a donation you do not get any tax relief. The charity gets the benefit by reclaiming the tax from HMRC.
Comment on 29-11-2012 16:40:26 by Spungo #736818
This article is the most fearful drivel.

"Losing the club has been horrendous – losing it on the basis of a debt that never was is downright unbearable."

Nobody lost a club on the basis of a debt that never was. Firstly, Rangers fans claim that the SFL3 Rangers is still the same club, and secondly the old one is being liquidated not on the basis of the Big Tax Case "debt", but a £61 million one that very much DOES exist, including £22m owed to HMRC on a completely different matter and £27m owed to Ticketus, as well as hundreds of smaller creditors who'll never see their money.

Didn't WSC used to have some sort of editorial standards?

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