Gary Lineker is being chased for a tax bill of almost £5million by HMRC, it was reported last night.
The former England star has channelled his earnings as a freelancer presenting Match Of The Day and other shows at the BBC and also BT Sport through a company partnership which he set up in 2012.
This type of business set-up is completely legal, but the taxman has in recent years been pursuing TV and radio stars who have used this approach.
Gary Lineker is being chased for a tax bill of almost £5million by HMRC, it was reported last night
HMRC believes that these people were in effect employees and so employer's contributions for National Insurance should have been paid.
As a result Lineker's potential bill is said to be £4.9million – which is thought to be made up of £3,621,735.90 in income tax and a further £1,307,160.46 in NI contributions.
The presenter, who set up Gary Lineker Media in 2012 with his wife at the time, Danielle Bux, is appealing against the decision, which it is understood was made last year.
Last year's BBC annual report showed that Lineker was one of the BBC's highest paid star, earning between £1,750,000 and £1,754,999, although he has since taken a pay cut. His BT Sport earnings are not known.
Some of the £4.9million bill would be offset against tax already paid by his business, say experts. He is the latest star to be targeted by HMRC under the so-called IR35 tax law, which has involved other stars including Lorraine Kelly and Eamonn Holmes.
Lineker is the latest star to be targeted by HMRC under the so-called IR35 tax law, which has involved other stars including Lorraine Kelly (left) and Eamonn Holmes (right)
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In 2019 Miss Kelly fought off a £1.2million tax bill for her ITV work after a judge said she had too much control over her shows to count as a 'servant' of the channel.
But ITV's This Morning host Holmes was last year left facing a potential bill of up to £250,000 after claiming to be a freelancer but losing his case against the taxman.
It is thought that HRMC is arguing that Lineker should have been treated as an employee, given the nature of his work for the BBC and BT Sport. This would have resulted in a different amount of tax he would have had to pay.
But Dave Chaplin of the ContractCalculator website described the actions of HMRC against Lineker as 'grossly unfair'.
He told The Daily Telegraph: 'Once again, we are seeing a high profile celebrity being targeted in a misguided attempt to shore up the Treasury's coffers.
'The fact is that high-paid freelancers like Gary Lineker now pay more tax by operating via a limited company than an employee of the same salary.'
Mr Chaplin said the BBC would have benefited more than Lineker by hiring him as self-employed.
Mr Chaplin, quoted on the ContractCalculator website, added: 'Fortunately, once the amount owned is offset by tax paid, the final amount is likely to be much lower.
'But that doesn't mitigate that this attack on a legitimate businessperson and their business is grossly unfair, and Lineker may have a strong case on appeal.'
BBC News presenters Joanna Gosling, David Eades and Tim Willcox were previously pursued for a combined total of £920,000, as part of these cases under IR35 legislation.
Last night Lineker's agent said: 'He did not employ a service company and he has paid all personal income tax and he remains on a self-employed basis at the BBC and BT Sport.'