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Usain Bolt fans will not see the Olympic champion in action again in the UK unless the tax laws are changed, the sprinter has warned.
Bolt has said he will not compete in this country because he objects to a law that sees him taxed on global sponsorship and endorsement earnings as well as paying the 50% higher earning rate on any winnings and appearance fees.
The Jamaican runner had not raced in the UK for three years prior to this year's Olympics, when he won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. He only agreed to run in London after HMRC announced a tax amnesty for competitors.
Bolt said: ‘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.’
In 2010 Bolt pulled out of the Aviva London Grand Prix because of his views on the UK tax regime. He chose to compete in Paris instead, for which he was paid $250,000 (£167,000) for his appearance. His agent Ricky Simms said if the fee had been earned in London, Bolt would also have been liable for taxation on worldwide sponsorship earnings accrued during his time in the UK.
While he would have only been in Britain for a matter of days, Bolt’s contract with Puma alone is estimated to be worth £12.5m, which means his final tax bill combined with travel costs could have added up to more than his fee.
Simms said that British tax law ‘has kept a lot of the big stars in other sports away from Britain’.
Tennis ace Rafa Nadal decided against playing at this year's Aegon Championship at Queen's Club because of concerns over potential UK tax demands. He opted to compete in the Gerry Weber Open in Germany, where he received an estimated £750,000.
Nadal was reported as saying: ‘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.’
An HMRC spokesperson said: ‘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 off-set against tax paid in their home country.’
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