David Beckham, Jaime Carragher and a bunch of other stars are linked with a tax shelter in England

And they gave me some food
and they didn’t charge me
and they gave me some coffee
but they didn’t charge me
and when I was broke I needed it more.
But now that I’m rich, they give me coffee.

Ben Folds, “Free Coffee”

Because capitalism’s a cruel bastard, poor people pay for stuff while the rich and famous often get stuff for free. Poor people have to pay their taxes; the rich and famous often hire clever advisors who figure out ways of reducing their tax rate. It’s good to be the 1 percent. One imagines.

These ways are very often perfectly legal, of course; whether it’s immoral and unpatriotic for someone earning $4 million to have an effective tax rate lower than someone earning $40,000, say – well, that’s a matter of personal taste. And if that person happens to have a job in which they represent their country; well, that’s an interesting twist to the tale.

London’s Sunday Times had a story yesterday claiming that David Beckham and three other former England players — Jamie Carragher, Jonathan Woodgate and Emile Heskey- – were part of an extensive alleged “tax avoidance” plan a decade or more ago, along with a slew of British pop stars and TV presenters.

Things were simpler back in the day, when folks under British rule would avoid taxes by throwing some tea overboard and starting a revolutionary war. This time, the stars were potentially entitled to tax breaks if they took part in investment schemes that produced films. Now the schemes are being legally challenged by the British equivalent of the IRS, which alleges they are improper tax avoidance vehicles, according to the paper. The company behind the plan insists it has done nothing wrong.

This follows an earlier Guardian story claiming “More than 100 footballers including recently retired Premier League players are in severe financial difficulties and even face bankruptcy” due to tax demands. It’s far from Wesley Snipes territory, but also far from the first recent story to link soccer and tax avoidance.

Barcelona star Neymar’s transfer-related tax problems prompted one of the squirmiest club statements ever seen – the gist of which was, “hey, we’ve done nothing wrong, but here you go, tax people, have a ‘complimentary’ payment of $15 million as a goodwill gesture. We cool, yo?” Because when filling out their tax return, who among us hasn’t thought “why don’t I add an extra few thousand dollars to my liability, so I can give the government more of my hard-earned money?”

New LA Galaxy signing Steven Gerrard in theory could have saved about $500,000 through the film scheme, according to the Sunday Times story. Wonder if he knows how high the tax rate is in California. Then again, if he likes to invest in movies, he’s coming to the right place.


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