Footballers tax ‘discriminating against other sports’ – Fenech

A 7.5% income tax rate applicable only to footballers introduced ‘to curb abuse’, finance minister insists.

File photo.
File photo.

A 7.5% income tax rate applicable only to footballers has been described by former finance minister Tonio Fenech as “discriminatory”.

The measure was introduced by the Labour government in this year’s budget and was approved yesterday evening in parliament at committee stage.

“While the Opposition is in favour of the measure, it should be applied to all other sporting activities that need to by supported by the government and encouraged to grow and become professional,” Fenech said.

According to finance minister Edward Scicluna, the 7.5% tax rate on footballers’ income was being applied in a bid to introduce more professionalism in sports.

During the presentation of Budget 2014 in November, the finance ministry said discussions were held with the Malta Football Association to encourage the declaration of salaries in football leagues.

“We want to ensure conformity and give incentives to those who chose professional football, and we are hoping that with the help of the MFA, football clubs will confirm and enter the legitimate economy,” the ministry had said.

However, Fenech argued that such a measure was simply portraying football as the only important sports activity on the island.

“It is already difficult as it is to encourage children to take up different sorts of sports. We are now adding a dose of preferential treatment to football, ignoring the realities of other sports activities,” he said.

Fenech added it was a reality that they were other types of sports who, like football, under declare their income: “It’s like we have identified a group where there is abuse and we chose to appease them. There are other groups who sacrifice a lot to participate in events such as the small nations games and who need our support.”

Defending the budgetary measure, Edward Scicluna said the government “isolated an area where rampant abuse is evident”, adding that talks with the Malta Football Association had long been ongoing.

“This agreement benefits both sides and reflects an agreement reached with MFA,” Scicluna said.

He added that the measure should serve “as a pilot project” and eventually applied to other sports.