The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Shelve Tax Idea

Plans by the government to impose taxes on the earnings of local athletes, soccer players and other sports men and women have met criticism from Kenya's Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).

In a statement dispatched by Cord leader Raila Odinga's communication Director Denis Onyango, Cord has asked the government to shelve such plans until the fears and demands of the sports men are convincingly and exhaustively addressed.

"Until the Government demonstrates its investment in the emergence and growth of these athletes, soccer stars and other sports personalities, we oppose taxation of their earnings," reads the statement in part.

"Currently, it is not clear what the government's contribution is to the emergence and growth of outstanding athletes like Asbel Kirui, David Rudisha and Sylvia Kibet, among others," it adds.

Odinga has challenged the government to explain to Kenyans what its contribution is to the soccer careers of Dennis Oliech, Victor Wanyama and MacDonald Mariga, among others.

"With hardly any meaningful government-run youth soccer or athletics programmes and no government initiatives to help them land deals abroad, these young Kenyans have stood out against monumental odds," he says.

He lamented that sports personalities were thriving on their God-given talents, which they nurture through discipline, hard work and heavy investment of their hard earned money in health and fitness.

"Yet they plough their money back into our country. A number of towns in the Rift Valley including Eldoret, Kapsabet, Kericho and Iten are running on athletes' money through investments in property, for which the owners pay tax," reads the statement.

Odinga said: "This is in addition to the honour and fame the athletes bring to the country, for which we reward them with pretty little. Athletes and our soccer professionals are in a unique business.

They ply their trade abroad, in the hands of foreign agents while navigating tax regimes that vary from country to country and with little or no assistance at all from our government.

We therefore urge that plans for taxation be put on hold until the government tables how it intends to ensure these athletes get into fair and rewarding deals with agents and that they are paid their dues promptly and adequately by the agents," he added.

He noted that if this is not done, tax demand is a case of the government reaping where it has not sown.

"We urge all Kenyans of goodwill to stand with our sportsmen and women in opposing these taxes until their fears and demands are addressed," said Odinga.

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