What are the financial complexities of agent fees in football? Are you a football agent, aspiring football agent, or a football finance professional? If so, you should have a basic understanding of the accounting and tax consequences of agent fees in the world of football. Read on to learn more.
What are football agent fees?
Football agent fees, or intermediary fees, are amounts payable to an agent for negotiating contracts between players and clubs. Recently, they have come under scrutiny with the BBC reporting an unpaid tax bill of up to half a billion pounds.
Other industry practices
In any industry, an agent is someone who sits between at least two parties to negotiate or broker a deal. In commercial property, the vendor and the buyer would have their own representation, and sometimes, the agent could be the same party. This could cause a conflict of interest, as the agent may be trying to drive the price up or down, depending on who they’re looking to save or generate money for.
In the world of professional services, such as finance, it’s common for a recruitment agent to recruit a professional on behalf of a company looking for talent. If the professional engages in that conversation, they could end up moving organizations, and the recruitment consultant that negotiated the deal would be paid a fee that is linked to the professional’s salary.
Agent fees in football
A football transaction is different to that of a property sale which involves an asset transfer or the recruitment of talent. Talent transfer involves the transfer of an employee. Football combines these two concepts. The agent is responsible for negotiating an asset transfer and the employee, or footballer’s salary. So in the event of dual representation, an agent can represent the player by negotiating the best remuneration package. The same agent could also negotiate the price of acquiring the player registration from the selling club. This assumes the player is moving from one club to another.
The challenge to get over in football is whether the player is being represented exclusively or whether the club is deriving value from an agent’s services with a separate representative or one that also represents the player.
When it comes to relationships, agents often have relationships with both players and clubs. To become a successful agent, you would need to match the talent of a player to the requirements of a buying club and also be able to move players on from a selling club at the right price and the right time. A successful agent that has longevity will be able to prove their worth in these transactions over time.
The questions that we need to ask are: do clubs and players receive value from the agent relationship? If you ask the parties involved, they would absolutely agree that they do. But who should be paying the fees if the clubs weren’t to get any value from that urgent relationship?
Accounting and tax
The accounting and tax treatment of club agent fees and player agent fees differs since the club services element is a business cost and if a player engages the agent, the player would bare the cost.
Agent fees are complicated by clubs offering to pay the player’s agent fee as well as any club agent fees. Paying amounts owed to agents on behalf of players is a benefit in kind and needs to be treated as such when reported to HMRC, the UK tax authorities.
The complexity increases further when a single agent represents both the player and the club.
FIFA’s new agent regulations prevent agents from representing the buying and selling club in the same transaction but it is accepted that the buying club and player can be represented in a dual representation contract.
Club services agent fees incurred by the acquiring club are capitalised alongside the cost of the player registration, presented as an intangible asset. These costs incurred constitute directly attributable costs of acquiring the asset. The total costs are generally amortised over the life of the asset which is the length of the player’s contract.
Player services agent fees paid by a club on behalf of the player will fall under costs relating to the employment of the player. These costs would be expensed as incurred.
The timing of accounting for player and club services in the profit and loss account differs. Clubs need to ensure they are applying accounting policies consistently and correctly classifying the portion of agent fees.
Club services agent fees incurred by the selling club will be treated as a cost of sale. This will be used to calculate the profit or loss on disposal of the intangible asset.
VAT charged on club services is recoverable by the club using the VAT return process. VAT charged on player services cannot be recovered and the amount inclusive of VAT is accounted for an expense. This assumes the player has not contributed to the payment of the fees.
Income tax and national insurance is payable on the player services fees as a benefit in kind. Tax and national insurance is calculated and reported through the P11D process. The benefit being the gross (including VAT) amount of the player services fees.
Club services are deductible as an tax relieving expense since they are an expense of the business. Since they are amortised by an acquiring club, this aligns with the tax treatment of amortisation of intangible assets. Player services are not a business expense and therefore can be claimed as such for corporation tax.
Financial complexities of football agent fees can be multi-layered and prone to error. Understanding agent fees in football is essential for football agents, aspiring football agents, and football finance professionals. By doing so, they can be sure they’re making the right decisions and complying with tax treatment.
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