Premier League refs bring HM Revenue & Customs to book in tax case

Tax agency loses tribunal over employment status of top-flight match officials

Photo: PA

By Jim Dunton

10 Sep 2018

A group of football referees have secured a tax tribunal victory over HM Revenue & Customs that has prompted a lobby group for freelance professionals to call for a new “positive” legal definition of self-employment .

The case involved 60 referees, some of whom officiated in Premier League, Championship and FA Cup matches, and who the tax agency had argued should have be classed as employees of Professional Game Match Officials Limited.

HMRC had sought to recover Pay As You Earn income tax and National Insurance contributions from the refs for the three seasons between 2013 and 2016. But PGMOL successfully argued that the games referees officiated at were individual appointments and did not form part of contracts of service.


The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said the ruling comes on the back of HMRC having lost three out of four cases in the tax tribunal on similar issues.

Deputy director of policy Andy Chamberlain said the ruling showed the need for the government to introduce a clearer definition of self-employment.

“What this highlights is that the rules in this area are very complex, and if HMRC are struggling to determine who is employed and who is self-employed, then so too is everyone else,” he said.

“The best way to address this legal uncertainty is to write into a law a positive definition of self-employment.

“This would send a clear signal about who is and who isn’t self-employed, and would mean that individuals wouldn’t have to rely on the courts to get a resolution.”

An HMRC spokesman said the agency was “disappointed” the tribunal had decided that the referees were not employees.

“We are studying the detail of the ruling carefully before deciding on the way forward,” he said.


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