Real Madrid, Barça and Atlético to pay back €52 million in tax

Along with Sevilla and Valencia the tax authorities are looking to reclaim lost income tax from LaLiga's big three due to reduced VAT obligations through agent payments Tenerife vs Getafe: Playoff Final

Cristobal Montoro.

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The online newspaper El Confidential has claimed that the Spanish Tax Authorities are on the war path looking to get 52 million euros paid back from five of the big LaLiga clubs. As well as the big three, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla are also targeted. It all comes down to the way payments were made directly to agents.

Paying part of player salaries to agents

By paying the agents directly, the clubs reduced their own VAT obligations while likewise reducing the players' income, and thus income tax - with the taxman losing out in both instances.

El Confidencial said Real owe 11 million euros ($11.7 million) and Barca 12 million euros for deductions that should not have been applied, while the two have been fined five and seven million euros respectively.

FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu leaves Spain's High Court on February 13, 2015 in Madrid

Atletico must repay four million euros plus a two million euro fine. According to the paper, the monies owed could be claimed from either the clubs or the players.

LaLiga keeping quiet as they aim to reduce debt

The Spanish professional league were contacted and would neither confirm nor deny the reports. But La Liga pointed to efforts made by clubs in the top two Spanish leagues to reduce their tax debts. They currently owe just 230 million euros compared to 650 million euros three years ago.

La Liga said last month that neither Real nor Barca owed tax, but Atletico - the third biggest outfit in Spain - were amongst six clubs who owed between them more than 70 percent of the outstanding tax. Spanish authorities have been fighting against tax evasion in football for several years now.

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According to Deloitte, a multinational professional services company, Real and Barca were the two highest earning clubs in the world in 2015, raking in 577 and 560 million euros respectively.

Tax headlines across the football media

On Thursday, prosecutors called for Cameroon great Samuel Eto'o to be jailed for 10 years and pay a 14.3 million euro fine over tax fraud during his time at Barcelona. They said the striker, who currently plays for Antalyaspor in Turkey, had defrauded the taxman of 3.9 million euros from 2006 to 2009 through front companies in Hungary and Spain.

Current Barca players have also been in trouble with the Spanish taxman. Brazil captain Neymar faces a two-year jail sentence and 10 million euro fine for alleged fraud and corruption in his transfer from Santos in 2013.

Earlier this year, superstar Lionel Messi was given a 21-month prison sentence while fellow Argentine Javier Mascherano was handed a one-year suspended sentence, both for tax fraud. Messi has avoided jail as sentences under two years are usually suspended for first time offenders in Spain.