The fastest man in the world says he won’t race in Britain until the tax laws are changed. Usain Bolt, who won three gold medals in the London Olympic Games racing in the 100 m, 200m and 4x100m relay, says the taxes on global sponsorship, endorsement earnings and appearance fees are too high and he’s staying until they’re lowered.
The tax structure imposed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Great Britain has three levels; those who make less than 34,370£ ($53, 961) yearly pay 20%; those who make between 34,370 and 150,000£ ($235,500) pay 40%, and those who make more than 150,000£ yearly pay a whopping 50% of their earnings to taxes.
Bolt, who makes an estimated £12.7 million ($20 million) a year, was adamant but polite in forcing the issue: “As soon as the law changes I’ll be here all the time. I love being here, I have so many Jamaican fans here and it’s wonderful.”
Bolt had threatened not to run in the Olympics unless the government gave tax amnesty for competitors, which they did. He had skipped the 2010 Aviva London Grand Prix for the same reason, running in Paris instead, for which he was paid $250,000.
Bolt is not alone in confronting the British government over their stiff taxes; tennis great Rafael Nadal decided against competing in this year’s Aegon Championship at Queen’s Club and went to the Gerry Weber Open at Halle in Germany, where he was supposedly paid £750,000. When questioned about his decision, Nadal stated:
“The truth is, in the UK you have a big regime for tax, it’s not about the money for playing. They [HMRC] take from the sponsors, from Babolat, from Nike and from my watches. This is very difficult. I am playing in the UK and losing money. I did a lot more for the last four years, but it is more and more difficult to play in the UK.”
Glyn Bunting, from Deloitte, the second largest professional services network in the world, said the HMRC didn’t just want to tax Bolt’s winnings but also his earnings from his £12.5m sponsorship deal with Puma: “Usain Bolt will be paid a considerable amount of money to wear a particular brand of clothing or a particular type of racing shoe and HMRC wants its share of that income.”
A spokesperson for the HMRC stated their defense of the high taxes, saying:
“The Government put in place a tax exemption so that non-resident Olympic and Paralympic athletes would not pay UK tax on their income from Olympic and Paralympic appearances. Any tax on other UK income such athletes receive can in most cases be set off against tax paid in their home country.”
But Bolt isn’t interested in HMRC’s reasons. And he’s not selfish; his Usain Bolt Foundation donated playground and recreational equipment to four schools in Portland which benefited roughly 2000 children under the age of 12 and also raised funds for the creation of a pediatric cardiac center at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.
If Bolt can succeed in turning the tide in Great Britain toward a less socialist state, he’ll have won a victory far more difficult than any he’s won before.