Lionel Messi’s Tax Problems Continue: Criminal Penalties Possible


Argentinian soccer superstar Lionel Messi is back in the tax news. His tax woes were the subject of an earlier LBN report. Most recently, Messi lost an appeal to a Spanish court. Tax attorney Rob Wood discusses the Messi case and how it might play out. The case is also the subject of his Forbes article “Lionel Messi Loses Appeal, Criminal Tax Case Heads Toward Trial.”

Rob Wood

Rob Wood

Messi earns $50 million per year, making him one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. The case involves both Messi and his father. Messi has said that the moving of income through shell companies was something he knew nothing about. Wood opines that the no-knowledge defense might hold up for Messi.

This case comes at an interesting time for several European companies and for the U.S. which has been battling with taxpayers with offshore income accounts. As Wood points out, anyone who signs a tax return “is signing under penalties of perjury,” and taxpayers are held to know what was going on whether they did or not.

Wood suggests that people like Messi deserve our understanding. Because of their positions in life, they are heavily dependent on teams of advisors to do the right thing and keep their clients out of trouble.

Wood explains that, notwithstanding bad advice, a taxpayer will be liable for unpaid taxes and interest. The bad advice defense comes in as to the question of penalties, mostly civil ones. The penalty is typically 25% and may be as much as 75%. And the tax case may involve criminal penalties, as was the case with Wesley Snipes.

For more information on the subject, please refer to Mr. Wood’s article in Forbes. Robert Wood is a tax attorney with Wood, LLP in San Francisco, California and spoke with The Tax Law Channel, an affiliate of The Legal Broadcast Network.  The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.