Players from several teams at this year’s Women’s World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand are receiving significantly less than they hoped, as a result of a significant level of tax imposed on their match earnings by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
All players whose teams were based in Australia for the duration of the tournament are receiving just over two-thirds of the match fees, with the ATO imposing a 32.5% withholding tax. The imposition of this tax was an integral part of the hosting agreement that Fifa agreed with the Australian government.
In contrast, all teams that played their group and knockout matches in New Zealand had no deductions from their match fees. They were given tax-free status by New Zealand’s Internal Revenue Department. The teams who played in both countries were taxed on a pro-rata basis of the amount of games played in Australia.
Nigeria’s players, who reached the last 16, narrowly losing to England, earned $60,000 (£47,850) each but only received $40,500 (£32,300) after the ATO’s deductions.
“The tax authorities, based on the contract they had with Fifa, deducted 32.5%, meaning each player got $40,500 each as against $60,000. The players were shown the email from Fifa,” Ademola Olajire, director of communications for the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), told the Guardian.
Uchenna Kalu, one of Nigeria’s players at the tournament, said it was in accordance with what the NFF had told the players.
Meanwhile, Zambia played all of their three games in New Zealand and were not taxed at all. “All our players received every penny that they were promised by Fifa and we did not impose any tax at our end either,” Reuben Kamanga, the general secretary of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), said. “I am surprised that those who played in Australia had taxes imposed on their earnings.”
Players from South Africa are facing double taxation – from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) as well as the ATO. While Banyana-Banyana played most of their games in New Zealand, the ATO taxed them pro-rata for the days spent in Australia.
“For every match played in Australia, the participating associations had to withhold the tax. Sars will also be coming [for their share] at the end of the tax year, because we didn’t withhold enough,” Lydia Monyepao, CEO of the South African Football Association, told the Guardian.
An NFF official said the Australian tax imposition, especially for players from developing countries – for whom the match fees from Fifa can be life-changing – is bitterly disappointing.
“Fifa goofed … and players at the same tournament are being taxed differently,” the official said. “This is a huge amount of money for players to lose. Fifa, the so-called apostle of fair play, did not apply financial fair play to the teams in Australia.”
A Fifa spokesperson told the Guardian that participating national associations were duly informed of the tax situation before the tournament. However, there was no explanation as to why a single tax regime, for all players fees, was not agreed upon between Fifa and the World Cup co-hosts.
In a written response to a Guardian inquiry on why a single tax regime was not imposed for the entire competition, Fifa said it “has credited prize money to cover the financial contribution specifically earmarked for all players at the record-breaking Women’s World Cup to all 32 Participating Member Associations (PMAs).
“Since the conclusion of the tournament, Fifa has provided tailored support to PMAs regarding the distribution of payments to players. This support is another concrete step taken by Fifa to develop women’s football and ensure players receive a fair deal. All distributions from Fifa to PMAs from the tournament will be subject to audit in due course.”
A Fifa spokesperson, though, admitted that the organisation understood how the reduction in match fees will upset the players but that the deductions were made in accordance with Australian law and the hosting agreement and that there was nothing the organisation could do about this.