Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lay off our earnings or else we boycott Olympics, athletes warn

Athletes train at University of Eldoret grounds before a meeting on January 22, 2014. The athletes warned on January 22, 2014 that they will boycott World athletics and Olympics assignments in protest over the Government’s move to tax on their earning from abroad. PHOTO | FILE

Athletes train at University of Eldoret grounds before a meeting on January 22, 2014. The athletes warned on January 22, 2014 that they will boycott World athletics and Olympics assignments in protest over the Government’s move to tax on their earning from abroad. PHOTO | FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By COPPERFIELD LAGAT
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Athletes have warned that they will boycott World athletics and Olympics assignments in protest over the Government’s move to tax on their earning from abroad.

The athletes were reacting to a Kenya Revenue Authority statement on Tuesday that it intended to tax their earning.

Over 5,000 athletes from North Rift held a meeting on Wednesday to air their discontentment with the tax man’s intention.

In the meeting held at the University of Eldoret grounds, led by former Boston Marathon champion, who is also the Cherangany MP Wesley Korir, the athletes stressed that sports persons are an asset to the country and have to be regarded as such.

In a joint statement delivered by Korir, they stressed that they have toiled much to earn Kenya a name internationally and they country needed to give them fair treatment.

“We have worked hard enough to make Kenya top the world in matters athletics and we would rather stay back if there’s no fair treatment from the Government,” read part of the statement.

They also noted that they have especially branded the country in the many events they competed in and no other branding of Kenya surpassed the singing of the national anthem in foreign countries.

At the same time, they agreed that there were no objections on KRA taxing athlete’s investments, but money won in foreign races should not be levied.

Besides threats not to honour forthcoming assignments requiring national representation, the athletes noted that the country risks losing athletes to other countries.

“Some countries like Qatar pays Olympic medal in dollars and we are sounding the alarm that KRA may trigger a massive athletes’ exodus,” warned Korir.

In an earlier interview with Nation Sport, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Kenya representative Benjamin Limo faulted the Government for failing to form an all-round tax treaty with all foreign countries.

“All taxes are deducted before prize money is paid. You come back to Kenya and KRA tells you the tax certificate is not valid as the country that taxed you is not tied to Kenya in matters of tax. Double taxation then comes in,” said Limo, the 2005 Helsinki World Champion in 5,000 meters.

KRA said it would take into account taxes paid abroad when computing what the athlete owed Kenya.

The athletes called on the Government to first support sports by improving and establishing training facilities. “You cannot sow from where you have not planted,” said Haron Lagat, an American-based athlete.

Renowned runners Wilson Kipsang, Geoffrey Mutai and Wilson Chebet amongst others attended the meeting.

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