Ringholm’s club faces tax probe

A tax investigation into an obscure suburban football club wouldn’t usually attract much attention. Yet this week, the financial affairs of Stockholm-based Enskede IK were splashed all over the papers. The reason: Enskede’s chairman is in the uniquely embarrassing position of being not only Sweden’s outgoing finance minister, but also its incoming sports minister.

The story surfaced after the Eko news programme on Swedish Radio claimed that the club had paid up to half a million crowns to its coaches without declaring the payments to the tax authorities. Ringholm, however, claimed in an article in Sydsvenska Dagbladet that the club’s policy was always to declare payments.

“It is strange that Eko can allege, without a shred of evidence, that we have paid untaxed salaries,” he told TT.

However, Svenska Dagbladet reported that Ringholm’s protests failed to move tax inspectors, who immediately announced that they would set up an investigation.

“Of course we will look into this,” said Björne Sjökvist, tax director at the Swedish Tax Agency, adding piously that “we work a lot with the ethics of taxation.”

All the attention seemed to be irritating the usually unflappable finance minister, who in an apparent attempt to widen the issue, called the allegations “a declaration of war against the whole sports movement.”

But SvD indicated that sports clubs have been targeted frequently in the past for making incorrect tax declarations. The paper revealed that a number of football and ice hockey clubs were investigated last year.

In these investigations the most common problem was that clubs paid coaches’ expenses for journeys to and from training sessions without paying tax. However, “such expenses should be taxed as a salary, just like costs for travelling to and from work.” said Ulf Andersson from the Stockholm tax authority.

Meanwhile the scrutiny Enskede IK is facing might be making the club regret its choice of chairman. The latest salvo was fired by the Liberal Party which, clearly scenting Ringholm’s blood, declared that that if the club really has been paying untaxed salaries it should lose the 350,000 crown annual subsidy it receives from the City of Stockholm.

Seeming to do his best to take the pressure off Ringholm was Alf Svensson. The former leader of the Christian Democrats was under fire from Amnesty International and the Liberal Party for accepting hospitality from Tunisia, which critics say is an undemocratic one party state.

Svensson was in Tunisia as an election observer, but the bills for his journey and his stay in a luxury hotel were paid by the country’s government. This provoked criticism in Sweden, even from within the Christian Democratic Party. Erik Slottner, chairman of the party’s youth organization, told Swedish Radio that he understood the criticism.

“The fact that the Tunisian regime has paid for the trip puts Alf Svensson’s objectivity in question.”