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Ex-England Footballer Emile Heskey Ordered to Pay £200k in Unpaid Tax Battle

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Former footballer Emile Heskey has been ordered to pay costs to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) following a legal dispute over an unpaid £1.637 million tax bill.

Specialist costs judge Mark Whalan ruled that Heskey must pay £194,794.42 in legal fees, describing the amount as “reasonable and proportionate” given the complexity of the case.

HMRC initiated legal action against the former England striker in 2017, targeting unpaid taxes linked to 15 penalty notices issued from 2005. A trial was scheduled to take place at the High Court in November 2019, but it was avoided when Heskey, 46, admitted liability for the debt.

At a recent hearing in London, barrister Daniel Laking, representing HMRC, outlined the history of the case. Heskey, who enjoyed a successful club career with teams such as Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City, and Aston Villa, did not attend the hearing and was not represented.

The £194,794.42 sum that Heskey must now pay does not include interest, suggesting that the final amount he owes may exceed the court-ordered figure.

Francis Kendall, Director and costs lawyer at costs firm Kain Knight: “Given the amount of tax at stake, it is no surprise that the fees were deemed ‘proportionate’.

“In my experience, the fees incurred by HMRC are near impossible to dispute. The department has an army of in-house lawyers, who charge hourly rates that are well below market rate, or the guideline figures usually allowed on assessment. Counsel also tend to work on reduced fees for HMRC.

“It is therefore likely that the legal spend, if in the open market, could have been significantly higher than the sum recovered. Mr Heskey’s own costs would undoubtedly be an interesting comparator.”

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