In the news: Barcelona star Lionel Messi accused of £3.4m tax fraud

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Lionel Messi accused of tax fraud in Spain, a tax avoidance film narrated by an actor who played Fred West and Thames Water sinking in a tax storm. Steven Perryman picks his top five news stories from the past week

1. Another fine (tax) mess for Messi

Everyone loves a tax evasion story involving a celebrity, right? Only recently we have had Lauryn Hill in the slammer, Wesley Snipes freed to make more Blade films – and Gerard Depardieu suddenly showing a penchant for Ushanka hats.

Football fans can thank ball-genius Lionel Messi, then, for keeping football high in the news agenda at a time when most footballers are showing off their tattoo collections around a pool in Las Vegas.

Yep, this week it was reported that Barcelona footballer Messi and his father are being accused of allegedly defrauding the state of more than 4m euros (£3.4m). Ouch.

2. Rest bite for SMEs in Real Time Information (RTI) implementation

Real Time Information. Remember that? HMRC’s big payroll initiative that got off to a predictively sluggish start in April?

Well, it’s back in the news with HMRC announcing it will be seeking to extend the temporary relaxation of its RTI reporting rules for businesses with less than 50 employees from October 2013 until April 2014.

This is welcome news for SMEs, which means they will not be required to change their approach to payroll until halfway through the tax year.

3. The UK Gold tax avoidance film gets world premiere

It had to happen. With an endless conveyor belt of tax avoidance stories since ‘you know who’ (I’m bored of saying Jimmy Carr’s name – oops), it was only a matter of time before the arts world muscled in on the action.

And so it has transpired, with the world premiere of The UK Gold at the East End Film Festival on 25 June. The film follows Father William Taylor as he sets out to shed light on Britain’s offshore tax havens. Filmed during the London 2012 Olympics, Mark Donne’s documentary aims to reveal a modern Britain dominated by a financial sector that relies on unfair play for profit.

The film will be narrated by Dominic West – famous for playing serial killer Fred West – and feature a soundtrack by Thom Yorke and Robert Del Naja. Anyone expecting laughs should probably check out Hangover III.

4. Hodge back on Google’s case

Speaking of tax avoidance – or TA as I like to call it – Margaret Hodge has been back on Google’s case this week.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – of which Hodge is Chairman – published its report into Google’s tax affairs this week, which saw it pay just over £10m on a turnover of £11.5bn over five years. Are you still awake? Good.

Hodge used the release to get on David Cameron’s back too, claiming it is ‘no excuse’ for the Prime Minister to claim tax avoidance is a global problem ahead of the G8 summit.

Which begs the question: who’s next on Hodge’s hit-list?

5. Is Thames heading for a watery grave over Corporation Tax?

Look no further than Thames Water, the UK’s biggest water firm, which it was revealed this week paid no corporation tax this financial year despite making £145m in pre-tax profit.

This may seem like another TA story – and it is – but it’s big news in that for the first time a UK-based company has come under serious fire. Marks & Spencer got some heat a few weeks back over its tax arrangements, but it went largely unnoticed because a reported a profits slump buried the news (apart from here on AAT Comment, obviously).

One to watch, particularly with Simon Evans of Thames Water proving suitably bullish in his BBC interview defending the company. Hodge v Evans? We hope so.

Steven Perryman is AAT‘s Editorial Manager

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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