Cristiano’s tax tangle
All citizens are ultimately responsible for their financial affairs, even they don’t file their own returns
Cristiano Ronaldo’s court appearance this week in the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón, to answer questions over accusations of alleged fiscal fraud worth €14.7 million, has sparked a public debate over the tax arrangements of top-flight soccer players such as the Real Madrid star. In this debate, which is similar to that which was sparked when Barcelona FC player Lionel Messi was accused and found guilty of similar offenses, there have been tirades against fiscal inequality and protests over the supposed confusion of tax laws. All of this is relevant, but will not be dealt with in Ronaldo’s judicial process, whether it ends up being quick or drawn out. That said, the Tax Agency should take note.
The law is simple and it invalidates any attempt to hide behind the “I didn’t know anything,” or “my advisers dealt with that” defense
From the obligatory starting point of assuming the innocence of the player (the legal process will confirm or scotch that) there are two observations that should be noted. The first is that a taxpayer (in this case, Ronaldo) is ultimately responsible for his tax affairs, even if his returns are filed by other agents or his lawyers. The law is simple and it invalidates any attempt to hide behind the “I didn’t know anything,” or “my advisers dealt with that” defense. It’s the same law that is applied to all citizens. The second is that the player is not defenseless before the law, nor should he be forced into a dead end. He has the same rights or more than any other taxpayer, and his fame does not diminish those rights one bit. What’s more, the player has the option of reaching a deal with the Tax Agency, which would limit the extent of the sanctions that might be levied on him.
The recent cases involving Ronaldo and Messi also beg another question that needs addressing: the use of complex or tangled fiscal structures created by law firms to “optimize,” or evade, taxes. Consultants should be called to court to testify alongside their clients. Because it is their supposed optimization schemes that compromise their clients, and leave them exposed to falling foul of the law.
English version by Simon Hunter.