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Fans accuse the taxman of witch hunt against Rangers

RANGERS fans have accused the taxman of prolonging a witch hunt against the club over the so-called Big Tax Case on the day it emerged one director is being paid £1000-a-day plus expenses.

A leading supporters' group has accused Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of wasting public money after it said yesterday it would make a fresh appeal over the case.

It is to contest a decision by a First-Tier Tax Tribunal over the Ibrox club's controversial use of Employment Benefit Trusts (EBTs). It is insisting Rangers are liable for a £46.2 million bill over the use of the loans to pay players, managers and other staff.

It has also emerged that Rangers' part-time financial consultant Philip Nash is being paid £1000 a day, plus expenses.

Mr Nash works a maximum of 16 days a month from England. The former Arsenal and Liverpool administator's pay is £200,000 a year, comparable to that of controversial former finance officer Brian Stockbridge. Mr Nash sits on the board but does not take a director's fee.

Chris Graham of the Union of Fans said the "witch hunt" pursuit of the "phantom tax debt" by HMRC was a waste of public money at a time when HMRC will not discuss whether a public inquiry should be held into allegations the club's tax affairs were leaked.

He said: "HMRC have had two goes at this. How many times do they have to be told they don't have a case here? A line should be drawn under this now and they should just give it a rest."

Mr Graham added: "It's interesting they are spending so much time and money attempting to win the Big Tax Case but when asked by shareholders, fans, even MPs about even an internal inquiry into where the Rangers tax information came from, HMRC completely blank them.

"They are spending an awful lot of taxpayers' money on lawyers in pursuing this but yet won't answer questions about where [the leaks] came from."

On Mr Nash's wages, he said: "Ibrox is crumbling, Murray Park is crumbling, almost every area of the club, on and off the pitch, needs investment, revenues are down and yet we are seeing a part-time consultant take home at least £200,000 a year and our CEO, Graham Wallace, earn a possible £630,000. It's ridiculous."

"It's in keeping with what we've seen over the past two years with executives taking huge payments out the club for … no tangible benefit."

The HMRC appeal follows a decision on July 9 by Upper-Tier Tax Tribunal judge Lord Doherty. He dismissed its appeal against a First-Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT) decision in the Big Tax Case.

HMRC has sought leave to appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session, as the cost of pursuing the case runs into millions of pounds.

HMRC claimed the EBT payments should be taxable but Sir David Murray's Murray International Holdings (MIH), which used to own Rangers, has now twice successfully argued they were loans and therefore exempt.

Many believe the case led to Lloyds Banking Group insisting the club debts were cleared, resulting in a disastrous sale to disgraced venture capitalist Craig Whyte, the subsequent liquidation, and the decision to put Rangers in the Third Division as punishment.

An HMRC spokesman said it "continues to believe that schemes using Employee Benefit Trusts to avoid tax do not work. Around 700 users of EBT schemes have already settled with us resulting in around £800m of tax and National Insurance contributions being paid. We expect more to settle."

It has been alleged 63 Rangers players and 24 other staff got EBT payments.

Rangers would not comment on the tax case, but said Mr Nash was a "highly respected football administrator" who made a valuable contribution to building a successful Rangers.

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