|Issue No 62
|14 July 2000
The Locker Room
National Heroes and Tax Avoidance
By Peter Lewis
While watching 'our Pat' do it for Australia at Wimbledon this week, I was struck by one particular stat: residence Bermuda - one of the world's finest tax havens.
As Rafter lunged for another volley, the dreaded question hit me: is our favourite son actually a tax dodger?
Next day, I open the paper to find another national icon, runner Cathy Freeman, was facing some curly questions about her ability to fill out the Tax Pack too?
It got me thinking about national sports stars and mutual responsibility. Are our heroes repaying our loyalty with financial arrangements of convenience? Look through our list of greats and you find more of them residing offshore than in the place they still call home. If it's not an exotic haven, then it's the US of A where tax is regarded as the enemy of the free.
Sure, the Rafter cheer squad will point to his Starlight Foundation where he funds sick kiddies. That's great, but I for one would like to see a comparison with the amount paid into this scheme and the levels of public beneficence that would be forthcoming if Pat stuck to the strict principals of PAYE.
Of course all high-income earners minimize tax, you say. How else would we employ accountants and tax lawyers? But my point is that for sports stars a lot of their currency, particularly in add-on marketing opportunities, comes from the love of the Australian public. At the same time, our taxes fund elite sports institutes like the AIS and cricket academy, to hone future stars' skills. Surely in return, the gains these stars make from this investment should not be regarded as their own private property.
What I'd love to see is an ATO audit of all sportspeople with publicly available details of their contributions to the public purse. And where that contribution lags behind the 48 per cent of earnings, us genuine taxpayers should ask a few hard questions. I wouldn't even mind if we incorporate any public charity work into the equation, if Pat wants to put his tax equivalent into the Starlight, go for it. But let's see the colour of their money.
The time has come to put our heroes under the microscope. Let's find out who are paying their taxes and give them our support. And if the 'Pooh' is paying more tax than 'our Pat', then I won't worry about the Davis Cup - real patriotism has a more tangible price.
Interview: Fair Trader
AMWU boss Doug Cameron is gearing for a showdown with the ALP over their free trade agenda. But what's he really on about?
Politics: Free Trader
Trade Minister Peter Cook states his case for coninuting trade liberalisation and why the 'fair trade' agenda is against the interests of Australian workers.
History: Organising - Fifties Style
What do the new wave of organisers do? Pretty much the same hard slog that Audrey Petrie did in the 1950s around Sydney for the Hotel, Club and Restaurant Union (HCRU).
Unions: The Whistleblower
A lone Chinese seafarer is fighting to stop a Panamanian flagged vessel from dumping toxic waste into Australian waters
International: Jakarta Breakthrough
Indonesian workers have just won a new historic bill of rights which gaurantees them legal protections when they form unions.
Solidarity: Rio Versus the Rest of the World
Union members around the world have taken part in a week of international action against the mining giant Rio Tinto. Andrew Casey looks at all the hot spots.
Satire: Amnesty Branch Targets Lazy Letter Writer
Police are investigating claims that the Glebe branch of Amnesty International has captured and tortured a member whose tardiness in letter writing had become renowned.
Review: Little by Little
Clinton Walker's groundbreaking book, CD and video charts the careers of indigenous artists like the legendary Jimmy Little.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005