For the Good of the Game? A Comparison of the Taxation of Sportspersons and Sports Organizations outside of and during Major Sporting Events

While hosting a prestigious sporting event, like the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup, can run up against major opposition from the local population in some countries, most countries still consider it a great honour. For this reason, nations all around the globe vie with each other for the right to stage such events and make significant concessions to the sports organizations. Such concessions include in particular tax reliefs for a predefined group of persons including the participating sportspersons and sports associations. These practices have been increasingly criticized in the media and politics for economic and social reasons. Moreover, the academic literature argues that such special tax regimes distort the regular applicable international taxation principles of sportspersons and sports organizations. This paper deals with these arguments, outlines the problems arising from special tax regimes, and critically examines their justifications. For this purpose, the authors present the mechanism of special tax regimes during major sports events between 2000 and 2016 for the taxation of sportspersons and sports organizations compared to the generally applicable tax rules. The results confirm that the special tax regimes interfere negatively in the fair taxation of sportspersons, sports organizations and tournaments. Additionally, the justifications in favour of special tax regimes for major sports events prove not to be entirely convincing. On this basis, the authors discuss alternative approaches for an equitable and efficient taxation of sportspersons and sports organizations during major sports tournaments. While the issues regarding the taxation of sportspersons are solvable, this would necessitate global agreement for the fair taxation of sports organizations, which is, however, unlikely to be achieved.