Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Too big to pay tax

Leona Helmsley, the 'Queen of Mean', said, "Only the little people pay taxes." She was thinking about individuals, herself particularly, but her philosophy clearly now applies to unaccountable international organisations.

Take FIFA, for example. FIFA sets eight conditions that all countries must accept who wish to bid for the World Cup. FIFA then hides behind a confidentiality clause to prevent these stipulations from becoming public knowledge. Fortunately the Dutch government has effectively exposed FIFA's position in the form of a draft letter to Fifa President Sepp Blatter. The letter refers to 'Guarantee no. 3' which grants FIFA a tax exemption that "shall encompass all revenues, profits, income, expenses, costs, investments and any and all kind of payments" and, in case that doesn't cover everyone as well as everything, apparently "FIFA will notify on an ongoing basis the Tax authorities ..... about the individuals and legal entities which shall be entitled to the exemptions under this Guarantee."

It seems that South Africa this summer will be able to charge a sales tax, which would be VAT in the EU, on ticket sales but ticket revenue is tiny by comparison with the vast sums that will accrue to FIFA from broadcasting rights and sponsorship. Governments around the world are so anxious to bring the great event to their country that they will submit to this kind of extortion.

At the Accounting and Bookkeeping College we enjoy World Cup football but we are committed to promoting open and honest accounting. So for us the final insult to be added to the various injuries from Guarantee no.3 is that any "declaration or reporting obligation of [FIFA] shall also be waived (in particular, but not limited to the filing of Tax returns, audited accounts, etc.)".

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