UK tax break for Usain Bolt: is it fair?
Filed under: Tax
Apparently George Osborne has bent the tax rules in order to get him to race in the UK.
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BoltBack in August, Bolt said he wouldn't race in the UK again because of the punitive tax rules. These mean that he has to pay tax at the UK rate of 50%, not just on his appearance fee, but also on his sponsorship income due during his time in the UK.
He only agreed to race in the Olympics after the taxman decreed that the event would be granted a concession from the usual tax rules. At that point he had been away from events for three years.
So when the organisers decided to move this summer's Grand Prix from Crystal Palace to the Olympic Stadium - and hold it on the anniversary of the Olympics - they appealed to the government to make an exception for this meeting too.
LegacyAnd according to reports in the Telegraph, they agreed. The newspaper quoted George Osborne as saying: "The Government is determined to do everything possible to secure the Olympic legacy and I am delighted to grant this exemption."
Bolt's UK agent said: "It's good news for the Diamond League meeting and British sport in general," he said. "The rules were discouraging a lot of the top stars from competing in the UK when they had options elsewhere." He said he would talk to Bolt about the possibility of competing.
Is this fair?On the one hand, the reasoning is clear: the government hopes that some sort of lasting commitment to sport comes out of the Olympics. They are also hoping that 800,000 people will go to each day of the two-day meet, and provide a bit of a spending boost - like the one we enjoyed during the Olympics. Reuters argued that the event would have been 'damaged' by Bolt's absence.
On the other hand, why is this the most sensible move to secure the Olympic legacy? Why not a continued investment in British sport - which has suffered a number of crippling budget cuts since the Olympics?
And why an exception for athletes? Why don't we have an exception for any event that could potentially attract major names to the country. Why not a break for a major Film or TV Festival? What about a computer games fiesta? Why not just pay celebrities to stand in the middle of London and draw a crowd?
And why on earth a tax break for a sporting superstar who is said to earn £12.7 million a year. If anyone can afford to pay his fair share of tax it's him.
If we're all in it together, we're all in it together - with no exceptions. If Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah were prepared to run regardless and pay all the tax due, then why make an exception for Bolt?
But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.