Scotland

Rangers' tax bill 'greater than £9m'

Ibrox
Image caption Rangers need to lodge audited accounts by the end of March to be eligible for European competitions

Rangers' tax bill is much greater than the £9m that forced the club into administration, BBC Scotland understands.

HMRC documents suggest it owes more than £13m and the bill could rise to £15m by the end of the month.

In separate developments, Rangers Director of Football Gordon Smith and the Chief Operating Officer Ali Russell have left the club.

And police have said they have been handed documents by the administrators.

Rangers went into administration last week after HMRC took action over an unpaid tax bill of just over £9m.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Rangers chairman Craig Whyte claimed that some £4.4m of that total could be attributed to the so-called "wee tax case" which the club has been disputing.

But BBC Scotland has now seen evidence which suggests that statement is not true.

BBC Scotland has seen HMRC documents indicating that the £4.1m it froze from Rangers accounts last year to cover the small tax bill has been used for another purpose.

Instead, that £4.1m was used to pay VAT due on the £24m Rangers received as an advance on season ticket sales from the London-based finance firm Ticketus.

Full amount

That means the entire small tax bill, totalling about £4.4m, remains unsettled. BBC Scotland understands the administrators are withdrawing the appeal against it.

And - contrary to Mr Whyte's claims - the small tax bill is unrelated to the £9m figure. Both have yet to be settled.

With the tax bill rising by more than £1m a month, by the end of February the full amount owed will be close to £15m.

That does not take into account the potential £49m "big bill" faced by the club if it loses a separate tax case.

Craig Whyte has disputed the figures obtained by BBC Scotland.

He said: "I will absolutely be back to finish what I started at Ibrox.

"No-one else was willing to step up to save the club and I have only ever had the good of the club at heart.

"In terms of the new figures suggesting the PAYE and VAT bill is more in the region of £14m as opposed to the £9m, those figures don't stack up as far as I'm concerned."

Strathclyde Police meanwhile announced they had been passed information from the club's administrators.

A spokesman said: "It is currently being examined and we will be contacting the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal in due course. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

Champions League

BBC Scotland also understands Rangers are unlikely to be out of administration in time to be eligible to play in European football next season.

The club need to lodge audited accounts and other financial statements by 31 March to compete.

Image caption Craig Whyte has disputed figures obtained by BBC Scotland

But administrators appointed by the club hold out little hope its finances can be sorted out by that deadline.

They are confident, however, they can get creditors to agree to a Company Voluntary Agreement, meaning HMRC would get a portion of what it is owed without the club going into liquidation.

However it is believed this is contingent on Craig Whyte no longer being involved at Ibrox.

European competitions have provided a vital income stream to Rangers in recent years in terms of prize money, TV money and gate money.

The club's potential absence from the Champions League or Europa Cup next season would be extremely damaging as it looks to emerge from administration.

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, has described recent revelations about Rangers' finances as "very concerning".

At First Minister's Questions, Mr Salmond said administrators faced a very difficult task trying to meet the club's obligations to taxpayers, keep Rangers in business and save jobs.

The first minister also said his government would support Ibrox workers if and when redundancies were announced.