This morning the Daily Record led with a front page headline “Celtic and the tax dodge firm”. They went on, “Celtic supremo Peter Lawwell and other club figures have been linked to a £434million tax dodge”, linking Martin O’Neill, Neil Lennon and a number of players from the O’Neill era.
Let’s be clear on the facts of this case:
Celtic employees (they did speak to each other) took advice from one of the big four accountancy firms and made arrangements accordingly.
Each of these employees declared these arrangements to HMRC.
HMRC informed them that these ‘investments’ were not offset-able against tax.
All Celtic and former Celtic staff settled this issue with HMRC years ago.
This was reported in 2012 (a cursory internet search will confirm). Nothing new has happened to any Celtic or former Celtic employee since. No Celtic or former Celtic employee is involved in any on-going related issues.
Celtic pay employees through income declared to HMRC. Tax was and is deducted at source and paid to HMRC – including the matter referred to today. They even asked HMRC if tax was due on Juninho’s EBT and paid by return when told it was.
There are no hidden tax schemes at Celtic. There are no side-letter arrangements at Celtic nor has there ever been. There are no disputes with HMRC.
The newspaper headline is misleading; “Celtic and the fax dodge firm”. There is not once piece of correspondence between Celtic and HMRC or any other body on this matter. Celtic deducted and paid tax to HMRC which their employees subsequently applied for relief against. HMRC have not demanded any connected payment from Celtic, nor is any due.
They can pick on Peter Lawwell, Martin O’Neill and Neil Lennon if that is their motivation (their hostility to each of them has been clear for years), but headlines putting the words “Celtic” and “tax dodge” are designed to damage your club. This is unacceptable.
The bigger question is “Why?”
It’s a tax issue reported years ago which nothing will subsequently happen about because nothing is in dispute by any of the parties concerned. So why make it a front page story now?
That remains a mystery for the time being, but know how ‘news’ works in Scotland, and more importantly, know who instructs what makes the news. This has all the hallmarks of a deflection piece before something bigger hits the fan. Someone is panicking.
The issue remains what do Celtic do about this kind of media distortion. Some newspapers are under so much financial pressure they live for tomorrow’s headline, accountability is a luxury they cannot afford to think about. They do not appear concerned at biting the hand that feeds them.
One (good) news journalist I know told me the football guys keep his ‘paper afloat, as no one would buy to read his (worthy) submissions. Football is the last gig in town for the old media. As a consequence, your club will be savaged at any opportune moment, with or without just cause.