I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Debt! is maybe what Ian Wright was thinking as he went into the jungle.
The 56-year-old former Arsenal striker, who is picking up a rumoured £400,000 from ITV for the show, told in 2016 how he owed £2million in tax and was “at the mercy” of HMRC.
In Ian Wright, A Life In Football: My Autobiography, he says: “The only serious clouds in those skies is the income tax issues that have been with me for a while now.”
He blamed the “wave of financial advisers” that appeared in the 1990s for landing a “whole generation of footballers” in trouble over tax.
He says: “I’m not a tax fraud, I am not a tax cheat, but at the moment I am at the complete mercy of the HM Revenue & Customs because of things that happened back then.
“The fact that it was bad advice and probably some financial skulduggery is not their concern; they want to get paid and my name is on the bill.”
Wright says he owned eight or nine properties at one stage, but due to his tax issues he is now left with just one, which he first bought for his mum.
He says: “One after another, the taxmen were coming for me over my former properties because of something called ‘deferred tax’, which, essentially, means it hasn’t been paid. I put my trust in people who for 20-odd years didn’t give me the advice I should have got.
“I’ll be paying for that for a long time.”
Several accountants advised him to declare himself bankrupt. He refused, thinking it would end his pundit career.
Instead, he chose to work hard to pay back the tax and HMRC had been “magnificent” and patient.
He adds: “I am one of the lucky ones because at least I can work to try and pay it off, which I am doing. But there are many big-name footballers of my age out there who can’t.”
Talking about the impact of the debt, he says: “I live far more modestly than some people might expect.
“I’m constantly getting cab drivers coming to pick me up, seeing I live in a normal terraced house and saying, ‘Blimey, is this where you live? I expected something bigger’. I’ve got no problem with that. I am where I am – I’m not proud at all.”
He has said he went into the jungle on the advice of another footie legend, Harry Redknapp, 72, who won the show last year.
Wright said: “At 56 there aren’t many opportunities to try something completely new. I’ve been asked so many times before and this time I said ‘yes’.” Fellow campmate Cliff Parisi, who plays Minty in EastEnders, said this week that he was going into the jungle because he needed the money to pay a tax bill.
Cliff, 59, admitted he initially turned down the job until his accountant showed him a huge tax bill.
Cliff said: “I had a meeting about this earlier on in the year and I thought about it long and hard and said no.
“Then as it crept along to September and I got an estimate for my tax I phoned them up and said, ‘Is it too late to say yes?’ So here I am.
“What is the worse case scenario? A big snake is gonna bite you or the taxman is gonna bite you?” Which do you want?”
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