Former football star Neil McCann, famed for his days as a formidable winger for Rangers, has faced a setback in a prolonged legal battle with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) concerning his punditry work for Sky Sports.

McCann, now 49, has been contending a tax bill amounting to £200,000, which stems from his arrangements with the broadcasting giant under his company, McCann Media Ltd.

Despite McCann’s assertions that he operated independently and could refuse assignments while juggling other professional commitments, a first-tier tax tribunal ruled in favour of HMRC in March 2022.

The tribunal argued that McCann’s setup did not qualify as an independent business, paving the way for the hefty tax claim. McCann subsequently appealed this decision, but the Upper Tribunal (UT) recently dismissed his appeal, affirming the initial ruling.

What are the risks associated with further appeals?

Tax expert Seb Maley, CEO of Qdos, highlighted the potential risks McCann faces should he opt to pursue further appeals. While acknowledging McCann’s right to appeal to a higher court, Maley underscored the financial implications and urged careful consideration before proceeding.

McCann’s career trajectory from his roots in Greenock Morton’s youth ranks to stints at Dundee, Hearts, and ultimately Rangers, where he enjoyed significant success, is well-documented. He then ventured into punditry following his retirement from professional football, notably featuring on BBC Scotland’s Sportscene alongside Steven Thompson.

Maley emphasised the broader implications of the case, shedding light on the complexities of tax laws and the challenges individuals like McCann face in navigating them. He stressed the importance of meticulous contract scrutiny to determine compliance with tax regulations, cautioning against inadvertent breaches that could lead to substantial financial repercussions.

A stark reminder of the intricacies involved in tax compliance

An HMRC spokesperson welcomed the tribunal’s decision, affirming their stance on the application of off-payroll tax rules in McCann’s case.

The outcome of McCann’s legal battle serves as a stark reminder of the intricacies involved in tax compliance, particularly in cases where individuals straddle the line between self-employment and employment.

As McCann weighs his options in the aftermath of this ruling, the broader debate surrounding tax laws and their application in the realm of sports punditry continues to evolve.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.