Jon Thompson, chief executive of HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), told politicians in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday that some footballers and entertainers have income from image rights paid into offshore accounts without tax deducted.
He said the practice was “the most significant risk in football” faced by HMRC.
Jennie Grainger, HMRC’s head of enforcement, also told the committee that 43 players, eight agents and 12 football clubs were under investigation over their use of offshore image companies.
She revealed that the tax office has a dedicated team looking at image rights, football, other sports, and the entertainment industry.
“Just on football itself, in the last two years, that team, and wider across HMRC, has brought in £158m in yield,” Grainger told the PAC.
Meanwhile, Thompson added that the issue had overtaken the use of film schemes by footballers to avoid paying tax.
Under a ruling made in 2000, income from image rights for footballers is treated differently to income from playing – rule which Thompson believes should be reviewed by the government.
“If it was for me, I would want to review this but I need to reiterate, under the case settled in 2000, that is the current law,’ he said.
The revelations come just days after a syndicate of European newspapers accused football legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho of dodging millions of dollars in tax by channelling money to offshore tax havens.
The Dutch newspaper NRC alleges that Ronaldo moved €63.5m to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) at the end of 2014, while Mourinho is accused of stashing €12m in a Swiss account again owned by a BVI-based company.
Both have denied the claims.