March 15, 2017 / 8:40 PM / 5 months ago

Neymar scores early goal in tax fraud case in Brazil

Football Soccer - Barcelona v Paris St Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg - The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain - 8/3/17 Barcelona's Neymar celebrates after the game Reuters / Sergio Perez Livepic

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian tax appeals court ruled on Wednesday that Barcelona forward Neymar could cede his image rights to family businesses and dismissed charges by federal auditors that they were front companies set up to dodge taxes.

Neymar still faces other rulings by the court on charges of evading Brazilian taxes on his controversial 2013 transfer to Barcelona.

The initial ruling, however, will halve the penalty of 200 million reais (52.42 million pounds) in fines, back-taxes and interest that Brazil's tax office had slapped on the soccer star, his lawyer Marcos Neder told reporters.

Brazil's federal tax office charged the soccer player in 2015 with evading 63 million reais in taxes due on income earned from Santos and Barcelona soccer clubs and sponsors between 2011 and 2014. Neymar appealed last year.

Auditors failed to prove their case to the appeals court that Neymar should have paid individual income tax of 27.5 percent on the earnings instead of the lower corporate tax rate he used in tax returns.

Once the tax office case is decided, federal prosecutors are expected to charge Neymar and his father in criminal court for tax evasion and fraud.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Toby Davis

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