Lawyers representing Gary Lineker in his £4.9 million tax battle have argued HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is “looking in the wrong place” and should have assessed the BBC.
The Match Of The Day host was told by the taxman that he should have been classed as an employee of the BBC and BT Sport for his presenting duties, rather than as a freelancer.
HMRC is now pursuing him for £4.9 million that it claimed should have been paid on income received between 2013 and 2018.
It comes as part of legislation known as IR35, designed to clampdown on tax avoidance by so-called disguised employees, who charge for their services via limited companies.
Lineker insists all taxes were paid on the income via a partnership set up in 2012 with his ex-wife Danielle Bux and is appealing against the demand.
On Monday, a preliminary hearing in London was told Lineker has now paid the income tax in full.
“IR35 has nothing to do with it, they just looked in the wrong direction, and it proceeds from this assumption that a partnership is in some way an entity, and it isn’t, not this type of partnership.”
Mr Rivett said the case the HMRC is setting out “cannot apply” in this instance.
He went on: “HMRC are looking in the wrong place here, if they thought there was a quasi-employment relationship between Mr Lineker and the BBC and BT Sport they should have assessed them.
“They shouldn’t have used this tortuous machinery to do it which gives rise to all sorts of issues of double taxation.”
He added: “We’re in front of you to argue an appeal in respect of an amount of income tax that everybody acknowledges has been paid.”
It follows similar attempts by HMRC to target broadcasters including Lorraine Kelly and Kaye Adams, in which both won their cases on appeal.
According to tax tribunal documents, Lineker is disputing the bill.
Mr Rivett said: “There is a direct contract between Mr Lineker and the BBC, in the vast majority of circumstances you would bend over backwards as a tax avoider to not have a direct contract between the worker and the engager.
“All of the efforts of IR35 over those years was to capture arrangements where there was not a direct contract between the worker and the engager, you put in place arrangements involving a third party.
“But here there was a direct contract.”
He added: “In these circumstances there was no reduction in tax on the part of Mr Lineker, there is a reduction in national insurance contribution viewed overall to HMRC but that is because of the BBC and BT Sport.
“And because individuals being sole traders are subject to an entirely different regime from those who are employed directly.
“There’s never been any suggestion that in these circumstances Mr Lineker was up to tax avoidance.”
HMRC will claim his extensive work for BT Sport and the BBC means he should be classed as an employee for tax purposes.
The preliminary hearing continues.