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Raila slams tax levy on sports stars

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RAILA-STARSNAIROBI, Kenya, January 23- Former Prime Minister and the leader of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), Raila Odinga, has slammed the Government’s move to impose taxes on the earnings of athletes, footballers and all other sportspersons announced by Kenya Revenue Authority on Tuesday.

In a statement released Thursday, Raila and his Cord coalition, called on the State to address concerns raised by a number of high profile sporting icons mostly distance runners who have stated willingness to boycott the 2016 Olympics and 2015 World Championships in protest if the move is not reversed.

“We ask the government to shelve such plans until the fears and demands of these young men and women are convincingly and exhaustively addressed.

“Until the Government demonstrates its investment in the emergence and growth of these athletes, soccer stars and other sports personalities, we oppose taxation of their earnings,” Raila said.

“Currently, it is not clear what the Government’s contribution is to the emergence and growth of outstanding athletes like Asbel Kiprop, David Rudisha and Sylvia Kibet, among others.

“We challenge the Government to explain to Kenyans what its contribution is to the football careers of Dennis Oliech, Victor Wanyama and MacDonald Mariga, just to name a few,” the Cord leader added.

While supporting the vocal protest against the move by a number of top athletes under the umbrella of the newly formed Professional Athletes Association of Kenya (PAAK) on Wednesday, Raila who lost the 2013 General Elections to the current Jubilee Government noted the affected were reaping from the seeds of their toil.

“With hardly any meaningful Government-run youth football or athletics programmes and no Government initiatives to help them land deals abroad, these young Kenyans have stood out against monumental odds.

“They are thriving on their God-given talents, which they nurture through discipline, hard work and heavy investment of their hard earned money in health and fitness,” the opposition leader charged.

“Yet they plough their money back into our country. A number of towns in the Rift Valley including Eldoret, Kapsabet, Kericho and Iten are running on athletes’ money through investments in property, for which the owners pay tax.

“This is in addition to the honour and fame the athletes bring to this country, for which we reward them with pretty little. Athletes and our soccer professionals are in a unique business,” he went on.

With the sticking issue especially among runners that the measures amount to double taxation since their earnings are levied at the country they are minted, Raila called for suspension of the measures until when proper framework to ensure they are not unduly trifled of their income is in place.

“We therefore, urge that plans for taxation be put on hold until the government tables how it intends to ensure these athletes get into fair and rewarding deals with agents and that they are paid their dues promptly and adequately by the agents.

“Otherwise the tax demand is a case of the government repeating where it has not sown. We urge all Kenyans of goodwill to stand with our sportsmen and women in opposing these taxes until their fears and demands are addressed,” he concluded.

On Wednesday, Athletics Kenya (AK) boss, Isaiah Kiplagat, said the measures were, “nothing to worry about,” since KRA has spelt out the modalities that earnings will be levied.

“We had KRA people at our seminar with athletes in December and they explained and answered all questions and there is no problem as portrayed in the media.

“I’m sure elite athletes have accountants and I do not think the issue should raise any problem. Athletes must understand and they were lectured on that,” Kiplagat told Capital Sport.

The CEO of the Kenyan Premier League (KPL), Jack Oguda on his part, promised to ensure the 16 top-flight clubs abide by the regulations although he called on a transitional period to be offered by the Government to align to the requirements.

“What we are planning to engage KRA and get more light into it because we had an issue where some clubs have not been taxing their players.

“Its something new and we will meet with relevant authorities to arrive to a conclusion,” Oguda told Capital Sport on Wednesday.

In Eldoret, the athletes gathering under PAAK, strongly resisted the move saying it would prompt them to seek to compete for other willing nations besides boycotting major events.

The latest storm was sparked on Tuesday when the Commissioner for Domestic Taxes at KRA published a communique requiring all sportsperson to pay dues on their earnings at home and overseas.

“Where sports income is earned overseas by a sportsperson who is a resident of Kenya for tax purposes, such income is considered to have accrued in or to have been derived from Kenya and is therefore taxable in Kenya.

“However the tax paid overseas is offset against the tax computed locally on the income earned overseas as provided under section 39(2) of the Income Tax Act.

“The sportsperson should however furnish evidence of tax paid overseas in order to be allowed to offset it against tax computed locally,” the Commissioner spelt out.

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