Television sports presenter Gary Lineker has won an appeal against HM Revenue & Customs after being accused of avoiding £4.9mn in unpaid tax.
Judge John Brooks ruled that the BBC Match of the Day and BT Sport presenter was a freelancer who had direct contracts with the two broadcasters, for work carried out between 2013 and 2018.
The UK government claimed that Lineker had failed to pay his taxes as part of a wider crackdown on avoidance by so-called “disguised employees”, who charge for their services through a company.
Brooks said at the hearing on Monday: “Because there were direct contracts, between the BBC and Mr Lineker and BT Sport and Mr Lineker, the intermediaries legislation (IR35) does not, and cannot as a matter of law, apply.”
The ruling marks a second win for Lineker, who was suspended by the BBC earlier this month for breaching its impartiality rules after he posted a tweet critical of the government’s immigration policy. He was reinstated a few days later following an apology from the public broadcaster.
Lineker’s victory stands in contrast to Sky Sports commentator Alan Parry who lost an appeal over a £356,000 tax bill last year. Parry’s contracts with BSkyB were held through his limited company Alan Parry Productions Limited, where IR35 legislation applied.
Lineker’s case was unusual because he operated via a general partnership, rather than a limited company. The tribunal found that while IR35 legislation could apply to partnerships, Lineker had not broken the rules because he had contracts with the broadcasters.
“The difference meant he had already paid more income tax than HMRC was asking him to pay under the intermediaries legislation,” said Dave Chaplin, chief executive of tax compliance company IR35 Shield.
“No one seems to understand why HMRC issued a tax demand for tax that was already paid,” he added.
HMRC has launched several cases against high-profile broadcast presenters in recent years, including Lorraine Kelly, Kaye Adams and Eamonn Holmes. Kelly and Adams won their tax cases at tribunal, while Holmes lost but has appealed against the ruling.
The tax authority had sought £3,621,735.90 in income tax and £1,313,755.38 in national insurance contributions from Lineker.
Lineker said: “I am pleased that the tribunal has confirmed that I have not failed to pay any taxes or national insurance by reason of the IR35 rules.”
HMRC said: “The tribunal has confirmed the off-payroll rules apply to partnerships, as we have always said. However, we do not agree with its decision that the rules cannot apply in this case and we’re considering an appeal.”