While we’re on the subject of taxes, what about footballers? That’s a question often put up by bankers accused of being overpaid, but the comparison works as well with politicians. Cameron’s tenure at the top has coincided with that of Wayne Rooney, a role model for millions who is said to earn more in a week than the Prime Minister earns in a year: Cameron’s tax rate turns out to be 38 per cent, but what’s Wayne’s?
More broadly, the annual wage bill for the Premier League is £1.9 billion. Two thirds of the players, including most of the highest paid, are foreign. A survey for 2013–14 found players earning an average of £2.3 million, a five-fold rise over 15 years — grotesque, you might think, but no scandal if clubs sustained by broadcasting rights can afford it and tax is being collected. At 38 per cent, that would be £720 million a year, or a couple of new hospitals.
But if there’s a single Premiership player who doesn’t employ a smart tax accountant to minimise his HMRC liabilities by every available device, I’d like to shake his hand. As for the 400 or so foreigners — like the sad Senegalese prodigy Freddy Kamo in John Lanchester’s novel Capital — a seasoned wealth manager tells me that most of them ‘hold offshore accounts to which their wages are paid, so they only pay UK tax on what’s remitted into the UK to cover the rent on their monstrous mansions’. What would you guess the average player’s effective tax rate to be: maybe a third of David Cameron’s? That would be robbing the nation of half a billion a year. There’s one for Jon and Cathy to get on their high horses about.