Paul Casey yesterday admitted "it will cause a stink" if the golfers are forced to pay tax for playing in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in two months time. The Englishman went so far as to admit it would be a "mad one" if professionals who aren't being paid to appear in the biennial match are charged by the British taxman.
As revealed by The Independent yesterday, Tiger Woods faces a potential £1m tax bill if he qualifies or accepts a wild card to take on Europe in Wales. And the world No 1 would not be the only one out of pocket for representing his country. All of the players not living in Britain may be required to pay tax on a portion of other income that is connected to UK performance, including sponsorship and endorsements.
The European Tour is in discussions with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs about the matter, believing the Ryder Cup should receive the same special exempt status as the Olympics. As Casey, himself, lives in Arizona he could be affected. "I've read about it and my accountant has told me I could be liable," he said. "I will always go back because it's home, but I fear it will keep people away. I do think about it, I'm not a huge fan of paying through the nose for something. The Ryder Cup does seem a mad one as we don't get paid. Yes, it would cause a stink."
Casey said so in the knowledge that American players have long believed they should be paid for playing in the sport's biggest money-making event. While HMRC decides whether the Ryder Cup will be liable or not – and the indications are it will be as players' clubs and balls contracts require them to play with the equipment in front of any paying audience – the organisers foresee the same problem arising at Gleneagles in 2014. And Casey hinted it could even cause players to think about playing in the Ryder Cup.
Although golf's featurepiece is a unique case there is the wider issue of HMRC taxing foreign sportsmen and sportswomen not just on their earnings from events in Britain, but also on a portion of other income connected to their performances in Britain. The new punitive rules have proved an issue in a number of sports, with the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt pulling out of a race in London this weekend.
HMRC defend the policy. "It is only right that where someone comes to work in the UK and receives an income, that tax is paid on that income, where it is due," said a spokesman. "Only the money the sports star earns in the UK that is connected to their performances in the UK is taxed."
Mitchell Platts, European Tour director of public relations and corporate affairs, said: "These tax rules are discouraging leading sportsmen and sportswomen from competing in Britain."
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