HMRC loses its appeal against group of football referees relating to employment status

15 May 2020

The Upper Tribunal has dismissed an appeal made by HMRC in relation to a previous decision made at a First-Tier Tribunal which found that a group of football referees were not liable for £583, 874 in income tax and National Insurance (NI) for tax years 2014-15 and 2015-16, as they were not classed as employees.

The case  focused on the employment status test known as mutuality of obligation. HMRC argued that the referees should have been considered as employees of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), and as a result the company should have paid higher levels of NI contributions on their pay. The Upper Tribunal did not agree with HMRC.

The referees in question officiated at matches in Leagues one and two of the football league, and also in the Championship and the FA Cup. PMGOL stated that those who officiate in lower division matches are not directly employed, unlike those who officiate in the Premier League. Individuals who officiate in lower division matches often have alternative primary employment and have the option to refuse requests to work at matches when they have other commitments.

Judges at the Upper Tribunal dismissed HMRC’s argument that where a contract exists, so does mutuality of obligation, stating that overarching contracts and individual engagements were not contracts of service as PGMOL did hold sufficient levels of control over these particular referees, due to the fact that they could withdraw from matches at any point, supplied their own equipment and managed their own fitness and pre-match preparation.

The Financial Adviser reported that a HMRC spokesperson said:

 “HMRC is disappointed at the findings of the Upper Tribunal. We will be appealing the findings to the Court of Appeal.”

 


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