Unveiling the latest Olympic competitor: the tax man

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The Independent Online

With its hairdressers, massage clinics, cinema, library and nightclub, Sydney's Olympic village will cater for every wish and whim of its residents. But one facility, announced yesterday, may prove less welcome: three branches of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), where overseas athletes will be able to settle their debts before heading for home.

With its hairdressers, massage clinics, cinema, library and nightclub, Sydney's Olympic village will cater for every wish and whim of its residents. But one facility, announced yesterday, may prove less welcome: three branches of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), where overseas athletes will be able to settle their debts before heading for home.

The harsh reality is that the ATO is entitled to a share of any earnings from next month's Games. Athletes receive no prize money at the Olympics, but many are given bonuses by their sponsors or governments for medal-winning performances. Others are paid substantial fees for media interviews, so tax officials have helpfully provided the three temporary branches at the village in Homebush, which will be home to 10,000 sportsmen and women during the Games next month.

Peter Rowe, the ATO's Olympics projects director, said yesterday that the move was "not a revenue-raising exercise". But he added that foreign media and officials as well as athletes would be liable for tax on money earned in Sydney.

"It is the location of the performance that is the critical issue," he said.

"If the race takes place in Australia, regardless of where a contract might be entered into, or in fact even where payment is made, then it is the income derived from that performance in Australia which gives rise to the tax liability."

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