Rangers Supporters' Trust raised cash concerns in 2004

THE Rangers Supporters' Trust says it raised concerns six years ago about the offshore payments that have made Rangers the subject of an investigation from HM Revenues and Customs.

At the Ibrox club's agm in 2004, a Trust member questioned the club board over the exact nature of "contributions to employee trusts" that were noted in the accounts as referring to two trusts: Rangers Employee Benefit Trust and the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust. Then standing at 7m, having first appeared as a 1m figure in 2001, the supporter was told these sums related to payments made to "players and their wives".

Offshore payments to players became common practice at many big clubs in Britain from the late 1990s, when some players set up companies to receive image rights payments which supplemented their salary.

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While the top rate of their salary was taxed at 40 per cent and now 50 per cent, the image-rights payments would often be untaxed if paid to offshore companies.

In recent years many clubs have been caught out by a HMRC crackdown on these avoidance schemes, including Arsenal, Portsmouth and West Ham.

"It gives us no great pleasure to be proved right, and for the Trust the concern is not about what the tax issue in itself does to the club's finances but how it could impact on any possible change in ownership," said RST chairman Steven Smith. "If the investigation proves an obstacle to a new buyer coming in then it could stand as another bitter element in David Murray's legacy running the football club."