Mo Farah: from lefty hero to tax exile in 10 short months

Last year Mo Farah was calling on the chancellor to crack down on tax avoidance. Now he want to be a tax exile.

Alongside Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah is one of the most recognisable British athletes. Since he swept all before him at the 2012 London Olympics, he has won practically everything, and is the current 10,000 metres World and Olympic champion and 5,000 metres Olympic, World and European champion.

His popularity has been enhanced in no small part by his reputation as an all round nice guy.

I don’t know Mr Farah personally, therefore it would be odd to say that I ‘liked’ him. I certainly admire his achievements, though; and he went up in my estimation on a personal level early last year, when he called on chancellor George Osborne to clampdown on tax dodgers. As London loves Business reported:

“Robbie Williams and Mo Farah have called on George Osborne to clamp down on tax dodging firms.  

“The stars have thrown their weight behind the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign’ that beckons global firms to pay their taxes in the world’s poorest countries.”

How disappointing, then, to read this week that Farah, one of the wealthiest track athletes in the world, has applied to become a tax exile in Portland, Oregon. According to the magazine Runner’s World:

“Mo Farah, who won Olympic 5000- and 10,000-meter titles in front of hometown crowds at the 2012 London Games, has applied to be a tax exile from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Farah now lists Portland, Oregon as his main place of residence; it’s where he’s been part of the Oregon Project, coached by Alberto Salazar, since 2011. He also spends part of each winter training in Kenya.”

Farah already spends time in Oregon as part of the Oregon Project, a programme aimed at developing the best distance runners in the world, and has now reportedly submitted a non-residency application to HMRC.

An extraordinary move for someone who claims to be all about “making the country proud”. According to the Daily Record, Farah is expected to make as much as £10 million in the next few years.

The hypocrisy of the super-rich is nothing new of course. What’s so disappointing is that Mo Farah, who only 10 months ago was standing on a soapbox calling on the chancellor to tackle tax dodging, now appears to be trying to minimise his own tax bill – at the expense of the rest of the UK’s taxpayers. It is, after all, tax which pays for things like the NHS; and all of us who lose out when services are starved of money.

If you are desperate to reduce your own tax bill, perhaps don’t moralise about other people’s tax affairs, even if you are an Olympic champion.

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35 Responses to “Mo Farah: from lefty hero to tax exile in 10 short months”

  1. Robert Kaye

    I’m not sure the ‘hypocrisy’ label is justified. From what you report, it seems that Farah spends most of his time training in the USA because that’s where the main centre for training is, and the remainder in Kenya. That being so, his main residence wouldn’t be in the UK. That’s quite different from being a tax exile in the sense of moving abroad (or spending time abroad) just in order to avoid tax.

    He presumably pays tax on his overseas earnings in those countries and due to dual taxation arrangements that could leave little or no income to be taxed in the UK even if he retained UK residence.

    It’s also quite different from the artificial structuring of companies to avoid taxation in countries where they do operate that you suggest he has criticized. If he lived and worked in the UK but routed some earnings through overseas companies – as, say, footballers often do with image rights – that would be similar. But this is just somebody living and working abroad.

  2. swatnan

    No professional athlete should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. They were designed purely for Amateurs. Farah and Bolt and the others try and squeeze as much money out of the public as they can; all professional Sportspeople do. Thats the trouble with Sport these days: Money.

  3. megalennon

    If he is actually living and training in Portland, it seems pretty harsh to call him a tax exile. If that’s where he is actually living and working it seems pretty sensible that that is where he pays his taxes.

    Let’s not be so eager to shout someone down.

  4. iriscot

    It comes as no surprise Mo is like any millionaire the more you have the more you want to keep

  5. Sparky

    He’s like any human being. He wants to keep as much of what he’s earned as he can. It’s the same whether you earn £25k of £10m. No-one wants to hand over more money to the state than they have to. It’s not evil, greedy or wrong; it’s simply using available legal mechanisms to minimise tax. Perhaps James Bloodworth could tell us whether he has an ISA. Because they too are a legal tax minimisation scheme. It’s exactly the same principle.

    At the heart of this article is a basic left wing belief: the championing of mediocrity. The left hates success, particularly any success rewarded financially, and would rather that all the population were homogenous, all earning £25k and working 37 hours a week because that fits in with their simplistic class-war view of society. The amount of articles on here that reference and champion ‘ordinary’ people, you’d think that being ordinary was something to which we should all aspire. Good luck to Mr Farah: he stands at the top end of his field and has worked hard to achieve what most people can’t. You can bet your life he hasn’t sat around in pubs complaining about his life and the state of the nation and how you can never achieve anything because the whole system is against you. That’s the Left. And that’s mediocrity.

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