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Spanish Tax Body Seizes Income of Late-Paying Soccer Teams

Spain’s tax agency confiscated income from several soccer clubs as it chases almost $1 billion of debts from teams in the country’s top two divisions.

Deportivo La Coruna is among those to have revenue seized, La Voz de Galicia newspaper reported.

A tax agency official said it recouped 132.9 million euros of debt from teams since the start of the year, when clubs owed a combined 752 million euros ($960 million).

The official, who declined to be identified in line with government policy, said he couldn’t comment on individual cases. Deportivo spokesman Rafa Carpacho declined to comment, saying the club doesn’t speak publicly about its financial affairs.

Deportivo is 16th in the 20-team Spanish first division.

In April, the European Commission said it was examining whether Spanish clubs are improperly receiving state aid under agreements that delay tax payments. Atletico Madrid is paying 15 million euros a year of a 115 million-euro tax debt, Chief Executive Officer Miguel Angel Gil said in an interview at the time.

Atletico isn’t among the clubs that have had income seized, Gil said in an e-mail today, adding it has met all its tax repayment deadlines.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the Cadena Cope radio station yesterday that “soccer clubs are going to pay their tax debts like everyone else.”

Rajoy is moving to reduce the government’s budget deficit as he resists asking for a sovereign bailout.

Previous governments avoided strong-arm tactics with soccer clubs over repaying tax debt to avoid a backlash from fans, according to Jose Maria Gay, a Barcelona University professor who studies team finances.

In 1995, thousands of people took to the streets when the government relegated Sevilla and Celta Vigo from the first division because of their debts. It later reversed its decision.

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