England grants Usain Bolt a competition tax exemption
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Usain Bolt, the self-proclaimed most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen, won three gold medals at the London Olympics,
But after collecting his shiny hardware, the Jamaican sprinter made it clear that he wouldn't compete again in Great Britain until the country changes its tax laws.
Currently, the United Kingdom taxes all professional athletes on not only their appearance fees and winnings, but also their global sponsorship and endorsement earnings.
But what about the Olympics?
They're special, not just from a competitive standpoint, but also when it comes to taxes.
Cities that host the international sporting event agree to waive tax collections. So Bolt could represent his homeland in London without worrying about the financial cost.
Bolt is just the latest high profile athlete to complain about Great Britain's taxes.
Competitors have been criticizing the system for years, saying it's driving off sports stars.
Well, England has decided to stay calm and make an exception.
Bolt and other international athletes will be able to compete tax-free in this year's London Grand Prix, a collection of 14 invitational track and field meets featuring some of the same athletes who competed in the 2012 Games.
The Diamond League event was moved from Crystal Palace to the Olympic Stadium to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
That connection prompted the special one-off tax amnesty for this year's event.
"The government is determined to do everything possible to secure the Olympic legacy and I am delighted to grant this exemption," Chancellor George Osborne told the Daily Telegraph.
Now I know United Kingdom officials say it's a one-time tax deal tied to use of the Olympic Stadium. But you can bet other international athletes and their representatives will latch on to the London Grand Prix decision.
Among them will be professional golfers who previously lobbied for a tax amnesty for the Ryder Cup when the international match was played in 2010 at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales.
Now that golf is an Olympic sport, the linksters will no doubt add that status to their arsenal of arguments against the United Kingdom's taxation of athletes, especially since the 2014 Ryder Cup will be played on a Scottish course.
I'm sure that the golfers already know that the British treasury has agreed to exempt international participants in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
And if a non-UK team is part of the Champions League football (soccer to us Yanks) final at Wembley Stadium this year, the tax will be waived for those players, too.
Hmmm. With all these exceptions, perhaps British lawmakers might want to reconsider their athletes' tax.
Usain Bolt photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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