How to get Gold medallist Usain Bolt back in Britain

August 14, 2012 1:41 PM

The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, has said on this morning’s Today programme that British tax laws have discouraged him from competing here in the past.  Under current rules, athletes competing in the UK are liable to pay tax on their winnings in addition to paying levies on any of their passive income such as marketing, sponsorship and image rights deals. Athletes often have to pay a 50 per cent tax rate on their appearance fee as well as a proportion of their total worldwide earnings. Tax liabilities might even exceed appearance fees.

Usain Bolt is not alone in his concerns. British tax laws have repeatedly proved to be a handicap on our chances of hosting events and attracting top talent. UEFA admitted in 2008 that Wembley missed out on the 2010 Champions League final for this very reason, while the golfer Sergio Garcia and Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal have also admitted that they limit their appearances in the UK because of our tax laws. Sporting events aren't happening in the UK and jobs are being lost because of this.

Our over-complicated system has undesirable consequences and it's not just British jobs that are being lost, British taxpayers are losing out too. Instead of the taxman receiving a proportion of an appearance fee, he receives nothing from the sportsmen and women who stay away, meaning British taxpayers are left to make up the missing revenue.

The International Olympic Committee insisted that HMRC suspended its normal tax regime for those competing in the London 2012 Olympics. London simply wouldn't have been able to host the Games otherwise. And the Government has also said that tax breaks will be available to the Commonwealth Games and those taking part in the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

But when the taxman starts creating concessions and special exemptions, where does he stop?

Rather than trying to push the water back uphill by granting exemptions for special events, it is high time that the Government realised the damage that its flood of a tax regime is causing to smaller events that simply don't bother to apply for special exemptions from HMRC as well as high profile events like the Olympics which do. It's not just that we're missing out on great sporting events. We're also missing out on jobs, business and growth, too.The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, has said on this morning’s Today programme that British tax laws have discouraged him from competing here in the past.  Under current rules, athletes competing in the UK are liable to pay tax on their winnings in addition to paying levies on any of their passive income such as marketing, sponsorship and image rights deals. Athletes often have to pay a 50 per cent tax rate on their appearance fee as well as a proportion of their total worldwide earnings. Tax liabilities might even exceed appearance fees.

Usain Bolt is not alone in his concerns. British tax laws have repeatedly proved to be a handicap on our chances of hosting events and attracting top talent. UEFA admitted in 2008 that Wembley missed out on the 2010 Champions League final for this very reason, while the golfer Sergio Garcia and Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal have also admitted that they limit their appearances in the UK because of our tax laws. Sporting events aren't happening in the UK and jobs are being lost because of this.

Our over-complicated system has undesirable consequences and it's not just British jobs that are being lost, British taxpayers are losing out too. Instead of the taxman receiving a proportion of an appearance fee, he receives nothing from the sportsmen and women who stay away, meaning British taxpayers are left to make up the missing revenue.

The International Olympic Committee insisted that HMRC suspended its normal tax regime for those competing in the London 2012 Olympics. London simply wouldn't have been able to host the Games otherwise. And the Government has also said that tax breaks will be available to the Commonwealth Games and those taking part in the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

But when the taxman starts creating concessions and special exemptions, where does he stop?

Rather than trying to push the water back uphill by granting exemptions for special events, it is high time that the Government realised the damage that its flood of a tax regime is causing to smaller events that simply don't bother to apply for special exemptions from HMRC as well as high profile events like the Olympics which do. It's not just that we're missing out on great sporting events. We're also missing out on jobs, business and growth, too.

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