Tax system deters Bolt from competing at UK events

Publish date: 
Wed, 28/11/2012

The BBC has reported that Usain Bolt is unlikely to race in the UK over the coming months, as a result of the way HM Revenue and Customs collects taxation from elite athletes when they compete at British events.

Bolt also pulled out from the Aviva London Grand Prix two years ago and was said to have only agreed to take part in the London 2012 Olympics after a tax amnesty for competitors was announced.

Other world class athletes including tennis player Rafa Nadal and golfer Sergio Garcia are also reported to have stayed away from major UK events in the past due to the amount HM Revenue and Customs proposed to tax them.

When it comes to taxing elite sports athletes, the UK tax structure differs to almost every other country in the world in that as well as taking a share of any appearances or prize money earned by an overseas athlete when they compete in the UK, the HM Revenues and Customs also takes a share of any sponsor endorsement income earned by the athlete during their stay even though that income is taxed in other territories – meaning that athletes often lose instead of make money when they appear on these shores.

Bolt’s most recent comment comes in spite of the government adopting a new approach in the Budget earlier this year, when an allowance was made to include the number of days an athlete trains and not just competes in the UK when calculating the tax owed.

The concession was made as a result of a coordinated lobbying effort made by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and its members.

Tim Lamb, chief executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance said:

"Whilst we welcomed the concession made by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs back in March, our concern is that if athletes still feel put off from competing on our shores, then there's more to be done. If we can't attract the big-name athletes, then we will very likely lose out on some of the big-name events.

“In its recent Olympic legacy plan, the government stated that attracting major events is set to play a significant role in ensuring that our legacy aims are achieved over the coming years. And more than this, attracting major events play a vital role in boosting the economy as a whole.

“We need to make sure that the world's top athletes aren’t put off from visiting Britain’s shores, or else when it comes to staging major events, we will miss out to more and more countries. So we would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the Treasury to work up a better deal – not for the benefit of elite athletes, but for the towns and cities that host sporting events and their local economies."

For media enquiries contact the Alliance's communications officer Libby Jellie on 020 7976 3933.

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