David Beckham's bid for knighthood 'in jeopardy' as new book discusses 'financial secrets'

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-Credit: (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

David Beckham's hopes for a knighthood could be up in the air, according to a new book delving into his previous tax affairs.

The book, penned by Tom Bower, alleges that the footballer, who is "obsessed with money", regularly sought advice on how to legally reduce his UK tax bill. His aspirations of becoming Sir David were thwarted in 2014 when HMRC raised concerns.

It comes as Beckham was announced last month as an ambassador for the King's Foundation, which insiders suggest could bolster his chances of receiving a knighthood. However, Bower asserts that Beckham was less fond of the UK when it came to HMRC taxing high earners at 40 per cent.

In 'The House of Beckham', Bower meticulously outlines how the football star aimed to pay less UK tax, primarily because he was "thrilled to be rich" and "terrified by the prospect of sliding back into a constrained standard of living. Opportunities to legally avoid taxes abounded," according to Bower.

The writer describes how a forensic accountant who sifted through the football legend's accounts was left "baffled" by the complexity of their "opaque" financial arrangements. He had "effectively become a non-dom" upon his transfer to Real Madrid in 2003, reports the Mirror.

David Beckham shows off his new shirt at the Real Madrid press conference announcing his signing to Real Madrid at the Pabellon Raimundo Saporta, on July 2 in Madrid, Spain
David is known as one of the best football players of all time -Credit:Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

According to Bower, Beckham was drawn to the prospect of legally avoiding British taxes. He claims: "Legally avoiding British taxes appealed to Beckham. As a non-dom in Spain he was not paying British taxes on income earned outside Britain," and "he was not paying National Insurance.

"The genius of it was that no one in Britain realised that Beckham had become a tax exile. Instead the public believed that he was a global success who paid his taxes in Britain."

Bower further states: "Partly that was due to sightings of him in London. Legally, he could visit Britain 90 days a year and after five years the annual limit would increase to 120 days."

Beckham is currently a UK resident for tax purposes and it is alleged that throughout his career, David's strategic football transfers abroad were deeply entwined with the tax schemes in place.

Bower puts forth that: "Beckham would reject the possibility of returning to the UK to play for Chelsea, would move to America rather than return to Britain, and would play for a season in France before the financial year ended.

Victoria Beckham and David Beckham attend the "Le Chouchou" Jacquemus' Fashion Show at Chateau de Versailles on June 26, 2023 in Versailles, France.
VERSAILLES, FRANCE - JUNE 26: Victoria Beckham and David Beckham attend the "Le Chouchou" Jacquemus' Fashion Show at Chateau de Versailles on June 26, 2023 in Versailles, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

"Over the rest of his career, Beckham gave the impression that playing the tax card had become nearly as important in his life as kicking the ball."

The former England captain has previously faced criticism for investing in the Ingenious film financing initiative, in a bid to reap lucrative tax reliefs. Ingenious was known for its involvement in big box office hits like Avatar and had sometimes benefited from tax breaks designed to boost the UK's film industry.

HMRC has countered Ingenious' claims, stating that the company sought relief on contrived losses from its films as a tax avoidance strategy. "Like other investors, Beckham had to pay the outstanding taxes which HMRC had demanded," Bower notes.

The widespread belief is that Beckham's involvement in the scheme is what has prevented him from being knighted thus far. However, Bower's book reveals that the Honours Committee was also "puzzled" by the intricacies of his financial affairs.

"In Beckham's case, HMRC automatically flagged up that Beckham had legally registered as a non-dom but they were puzzled by the complexity of his companies' accounts," Bower writes. The tax authorities found Beckham's audited returns to be somewhat perplexing.

England and Real Madrid football player David Beckham and wife Victoria pose at "The David Beckham Academy" launch party at Creative Artists Agency on June 3, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California.
Beckham's reps say his taxes have been duly filed and approved by HMRC -Credit:Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AEG

According to the book, Beckham's prospects for a knighthood were always uncertain, especially considering that only 16 football greats, such as Pele, Bobby Charlton, and Stanley Matthews, have been knighted. "Beckham obviously believed that he ranked with those giants of the sport," Bower suggests.

Bower goes on to assert that "Beckham's aggressive self-promotion and tax avoidance through his non-dom status and the Ingenious schemes" did not sit well with Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service and chair of the Honours Committee.

In particular, Beckham's "opulent lifestyle grated upon Kerslake's left-wing political inclinations" including having five homes. Bower added: "The notion of 'Lady' Victoria irritated Kerslake. To make her life tolerable, Victoria had admitted that she employed five permanent staff including a nanny, a chef and two housekeepers, plus security staff."

In leaked emails, Beckham later referred to the honours committee as "unappreciative c****". He also rejected the idea of a CBE, stating: "Unless it's a knighthood, f*** off. They're a bunch of c****. I expected nothing less."

Beckham's team claimed the emails were manipulated. Bower alleges that the Beckhams' financial affairs were "extraordinarily complex for a small private business owned by two people".

At the top of the hierarchy, the parent company Beckham Brand Holdings Ltd (BBH) amalgamated several associated companies and partnerships. In total, Beckham was a director of at least 19 companies in the UK and more overseas.

"Over the years, the ownership of those companies Footwork Productions, David Beckham Ventures, Victoria Beckham Ltd and many subsidiaries and their inter-company trading had even a meticulous forensic accountant scratching their head about the businesses," Bower asserts.

He added: "Those internal transactions left threads that are difficult even for specialists to follow, not least because the various companies' financial years ended at different dates."

The book alleges that staggering amounts were paid to auditors to scrutinise the books, including one payment of £437,000 for a year's work for one firm. It also claims that some accounts were consistently filed late at Companies House, resulting in several fines.

In 2016, Beckham's holding company BBH was so tardy with its filing that it faced being "struck off". The book also recounts an unusual incident where Beckham's accountants for his Seven Global Holding Company Limited had seemingly "forgotten" about taxes worth $11.3million being held by the German government in a dispute until it was pointed out by Bower's forensic accountant.

A spokeswoman for Beckham informed Bower that he was fully taxed on all his income earned in Spain and his income earned elsewhere in the relevant jurisdictions at the time. She also told the author that the late filing of accounts was standard practice due to the inherent complexity of the arrangements.

A source further stated that the Beckhams' "tax affairs are of course fully in order and have been duly filed, audited and approved by HMRC".

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