Star athletes push for tax reprieve to grow sports talent

Kenya’s star athletes have faulted plans to tax their income more, saying this would kill talent.

Last week, retired track champions joined the debate and said the athletes are already heavily taxed in the countries hosting the events.

Benjamin Limo, the IAAF Kenyan athletes’ representative, said runners should be shielded from double taxation. Limo, who is also the chairman of Athletics Kenya Uasin Gishu County, said athletes have brought Kenya glory and deserve special treatment.

“The government needs to declare its stand on Kenyan athletics. It is ironical to brag when they win abroad while here at home not much support is offered for them,” said Limo.

Limo, who won Kenya a 5000m gold at the Helsinki World Championships in 2005, said athletes are taxed wherever they win races.

“Right now, there’s no race held in Europe where athletes go untaxed.”

Host countries tax athletes’ award cash between 25 per cent and 35 per cent while IAAF says their managers take up to 15 per cent of the cash.

But in a television interview last week, former Boston Marathon champion and Cherangany MP Wesley Korir asked the government to seek avenues through which athletes can get tax cover in some countries.

Korir said athletes risked double taxation until Kenya worked on a treaty with countries hosting the races.

No deal

“A country like US has no treaty with Kenya and when athletes participate in a race like New York Marathon, the US taxes them but the KRA will not accept the arrangement because there’s no deal between the two countries.”

Boston and Chicago marathon champion Rita Jeptoo said the tax push may gradually kill talent.

Jeptoo, who finished second in the World Marathon Majors behind namesake Priscah Jeptoo last year, lamented lack of consistency in the subject.

“It can kill the morale in young talent. I don’t understand this issue because at an Athletics Kenya seminar last December, the taxman said only investments will be taxed,” said Jeptoo in Eldoret last week.

“After these deductions, you find that an athlete takes home a percentage, not adequate to cater for their families,” she said.