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World Cup athletes face tax battles off the field

It is World Cup time. This year, the World Cup marks more than just a celebration of amazing soccer games. It also showcases athletes that are in the middle of international tax battles.

Arguably, two of the greatest soccer players of our time are currently facing serious allegations of tax fraud. Cristiano Ronaldo is one. The Spanish government recently accused the star of Real Madrid's soccer team of tax evasion. Instead of litigating the matter, he chose to settle with the Spanish government and pay a fine of $21.8 million, and accepted a suspended jail sentence as part of the deal. The government set the sentence for two years. However, Spanish law often offers a probation alternative for first offenders that have a sentence of two years or less. As such, the football great will likely not serve prison time.

The Spanish government also accused Lionel Messi, another soccer great, of tax evasion in 2016. The government accused both Messi his father of using shell companies to hide royalties and other soccer earnings in an effort to avoid tax obligations. He also received a light prison sentence served through probation and a hefty monetary penalty.

Although these are not battles with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the disputes provide an example of the broad reach of taxes. Tax law impacts everyone from your next-door neighbor to the millionaire athlete performing on the television. Anyone that faces off with the IRS is wise to take the dispute seriously. Seek legal counsel to help better ensure your legal rights are protected and to mitigate the risk of hefty penalties.

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