The FC Barcelona soccer star Gerard Piqué has lost his legal battle with the Spanish Tax Agency, and will have to pay €2.1 million in penalties and back taxes.
Piqué has been dealing with this issue since 2013, when he was audited by tax authorities
Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, has rejected an appeal filed by the center-back against a decision by the Central Administrative Economic Tribunal (TEAC) telling him to pay that amount for taxes owed in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Tax authorities say that Piqué pretended to transfer his image rights to his own company, Kerad Project 2006, in order to pay a lower tax rate on that income.
Piqué’s partner, the popular singer Shakira, has had her own tax troubles of late. The Colombian artist was in court a month ago after being accused by prosecutors of a €14.5 million fraud against the Spanish treasury. The Tax Agency said that between 2012 and 2014 Shakira had been a resident of Spain and was therefore under the obligation to file her returns in that country, and not in other territories with lower tax rates.
Piqué has been dealing with this issue since 2013, when he was audited by tax authorities. Investigators who reviewed the player’s 2008, 2009 and 2010 returns concluded that he had used a company to transfer his earnings from image rights and pay a corporate tax rate of 30% instead of personal income tax of 45%.
A crusade against sports
When the economic crisis hit and tax revenues sank, Spanish authorities turned their attention to the world of sports after turning a blind eye for years. They had detected that many soccer players were using companies to transfer their image rights and reduce their taxes. As a result, a long list of players began filing through the courts, including Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas as well as the soccer manager José Mourinho.
In December 2016, the TEAC ruled that Piqué must pay €1,457,855.61 in back taxes plus another €678,012.59 in penalties. He appealed to the High Court, which ruled against him in May of this year. The soccer player could still resort to the Supreme Court.
In his appeal, Piqué claimed that the contract signed in 2006 between himself and the company Kerad Project 2006, of which he is the sole shareholder, was not simulated with the goal of lowering his tax payments.
Judges noted that Piqué later continued to sell his image rights to companies such as Nike despite having transferred them to Kerad 2006, and said he had ceded these rights for a 20-year period for just €3,000, even though he charged Nike €70,000 for one year.
Piqué and Shakira are the latest in a long list of high-profile celebrities in Spain who have had to face court proceedings over tax avoidance. These include former Real Madrid soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, opera singer Montserrat Caballé, celebrity chef Sergi Arola and 1980s pop star Ana Torroja.
English version by Susana Urra.