Just days after Usain Bolt announced that he would not be participating in any meets in the UK due to tax reasons, Britain’s sports minister has stepped in and offered to help.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has told the BBC that he will look into whether there is something that could be done to encourage Bolt to participate in the elite Crystal Palace Diamond League meet scheduled for next month. He added, however, that “three weeks doesn’t give us a whole lot of time to organize a tax concession.”
It’s not just a concession for Bolt. The revised tax laws for athletes have caused a number of athletes to pull out of upcoming events in Britain. Under the current law, athletes are subject to a pro-rated tax in the UK based on the number of events that they participate in. If, for example, Bolt participates in five races in 2010 and one of those races happened in the UK, the Brits take the position that they are entitled to 1/5 of Bolt’s worldwide income (I’m generalizing a little bit but you get the idea). This is in addition to a 50% tax rate on appearance fees. The tax is imposed even though the affected athletes may not live in the country. It’s not a popular law and has been cited as the reason for many athletes opting out of UK sporting events.
UK Athletics (UKA) pointed to the law as one that clearly needs to be addressed. Noting that Bolt would not race against his main rivals and fellow Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay because of the law (thus making the event not quite as a exciting), the UKA has called for change.
It’s not an impossible request. After Wembley was passed over as the host for the 2010 Champions League final, changes were made to exempt visiting footballers (that’s soccer to you and me) from the tax laws. Wembley will now host the 2011 Champions League final.