Commonwealth Games launch tax exemption for athletes

Finally, international athletes are granted an income tax exemption for the Glasgow Grand Prix and the Commonwealth Games. The exemption only covers the two international events for this year but this has surely got to be the first steps towards a permanent strategy by HMRC.

Usain Bolt represents the highest profile name of the athletic world to have spoken out against the UK tax system. It seems that even he has neither the speed or the inclination to out run HMRC.

Until now, HMRC have imposed a levy on visiting athletes’ sponsorship, endorsement earnings and appearance fees. Some athletes actually pay more in UK tax than they earn in the country! Bolt has been very public about his decision to run less on UK soil in order to avoid the tax levy.

Their income was protected during the 2012 Olympics but athletes from all areas of sport opt out of UK appearances in favour of more lucrative ventures elsewhere. The tennis star Rafa Nadal pulled out of 2012’s Aegon Championship at Queen’s Club due to the UK’s tax demands. This is an on-going problem HMRC have been slow to address.

Bolt won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the London Games. This calibre of athlete can transform the economic opportunity of any UK track event. He attracts bigger audiences that results in bigger sales. If the rest of the world are not penalising athletes then why is the UK levying a 50% higher earnings rate at their global sponsorship and endorsement earnings.

Yes, they earn a lot of money. Yes, the tax margins alone could give us a comfortable annual wage. But, this is about consistency with our international neighbours as well as business sense. Why drive international athletes away from our shores when the Olympics has just demonstrated to us how much money the sporting elite can generate for our economy.

Let’s hope HMRC keeps these levies under wraps so the UK is an attractive place for the sporting worlds finest to come and showcase their talents.

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