Justin Lagat sent us this piece on Wednesday morning about a historic meeting of many of Kenyan’s top athletes protesting over the taxing practices of the KRA.
Kenyan Athletes Unite Against KRA, by Justin Lagat (Jan.22, 2014)
Kenyan athletes met today at the Eldoret University Pavilion, formerly Chepkoilel Stadium, to hold a press conference and show their solidarity in demonstrating against the new taxation rules that are being applied on the prize money they win in races out of the country. The meeting brought together athletes from parts of the North Rift region of Kenya and was headed by Hon. Wesley Korir, the 2012 Boston Marathon winner, together with other world renowned athletes that included Wilson Kipsang, Geoffrey Mutai, Dennis Kimetto, Sammy Kitwara and Wilson Kiprop among so many others.
We had some discussions before Wesley Korir finally read out the athlete’s grievances to the press people, but before the official statement, here are a few of the points that arose during the discussions:
One, what the athletes do abroad is to the benefit of the country and should be appreciated instead of being punished. Ugandan athletes are rewarded handsomely whenever they win races abroad, an example in Stephen Kiprotich who had a house built for him, his parents and a training camp at his rural home. Ethiopian athletes are allocated prime lands in the city whenever they win big races abroad.
Two, it is not possible to ascertain the income of an athlete. The criteria usually being used in calculating the amount of taxes to be paid by a citizen do not apply to athletes. The amount for the typical citizen is calculated on their stable monthly earnings. What is different about the athletes is that they have so many other expenses to incur before and after winning the prize money, including air tickets, accommodation abroad, their agent’s percentage share, payments to their coaches and running/training facilities, among other expenses out there. They claim that the Kenya Revenue Authority’s way of arriving at the amount to tax them does not consider all these, but only target the amount they learn from the media as the alleged prize money of the race. Some athletes are even yet to regain what they had to sell before they could make a trip abroad, but KRA does not consider that.
Three, the government does not invest in the athletes and in their training facilities and should only be proper if they leave them with their own money to continue investing in their local training groups and recovering what they lost over the years while they provided for themselves in their training places for many years, an average of ten years for most athletes. It won’t be proper that the KRA comes in to just reap where they haven’t sowed. Sometimes, some athletes travel from far places to Chepkoilel Stadium, the only better but always overcrowded track in Eldoret, only to arrive when it is too muddy to train on, and even after trying to wait for it to dry for over six hours, may finally be forced to miss training and travel back to their camps wasting their time and money for the day. If the government cared for the welfare of the athletes, these tracks would not be in such states and it is only fair the government would leave the athletes to support their welfare with the money they win.
Four, from the money they win abroad, not only do they earn the country foreign exchange but they are also taxed on their investments in the country as well, just like any other citizen. With the money they earn, they are able to create job opportunities for many would-be-jobless youths in the society. Taxing them on the money they bring into the country and again on the investments they do is tantamount to taxing them double.
With one voice, the Kenyan athletes urged the government to address their plight as most of them have remained loyal to their country despite being offered opportunities to change their citizenships and run for other countries, where they will be paid well and valued for their services.