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.

  6. Paul

    The People’s Republic of Oregon slaps a 11% state tax on top of Federal income taxes for high-earners, making more than 40% in total. To reduce his tax bill he could have moved 100 miles north to Washington State where there is no state tax whatsoever.

  7. Matthew Blott

    What a tit you are. Individuals don’t live in a vacuum. The reason Mo Farah is an Olympic champion is also because the UK gave him sanctuary and paid for his education and healthcare using services funded by taxation.

  8. Paul

    Mo’s father is British.

  9. Tom

    There are lots of places people go to avoid tax, but I don’t think the US is one of them. As he makes clear in his autobiography, he needed the world-class training facilities there to give him the edge he needed to win the Olympics, so he moved with his family to Portland in 2011. He was just doing what lots of other people do: move to another country when the job demands it.
    I detest these holier-than-thou people who complain about the money in sport. I spent 50 years getting out of bed on a morning to get money, and if another gaffer offered me more, I’d go and work for him. Isn’t that what everybody does?

  10. Nick.

    Labelled as a ‘tax exile’ because he doesn’t want to have 5 million stolen by the parasitic state, Jesus wept.

  11. Matthew Blott

    Fair enough. I thought he moved to Britain to flee persecution. Still, what I said pretty much stands.

  12. Andrew crossley

    I don’t know many people who earn 25k a year. I know a lot of people who earn a lot less. 25k sounds like a lot to me.

  13. robertcp

    It is not possible for people competing in elite sports to be amateurs. A lot of amateur sport was actually snobbishness against working class people who needed money.

  14. Imran of Manchester

    Dude maybe you can do better in representing Britain???
    His dad IS British and HAS paid his way for his children……just like your father probably has.
    If its money that concerns you…….well lets say that he has more right to live in Britain than you.
    He works hard, earns more, donates to charity more than you ever will or have.
    When was the last time you gave to charity? May i guess?
    Bag of chips to your mate while spending your TAX CREDITS from us hard workers.
    In education, Mohamed Farah, may not have succeded in but you had the chance to???

  15. James Johnson

    Oregon state tax is around 11%, federal tax is 21%, Oregon property tax is around 2-3% – I think you will find that this is not much different from the UK so hardly an exile!!!

  16. timworstall

    Yes, given that US taxation is pretty similar to UK when State taxes are included I think “tax exile” might not be the right phrase. Especially as, if he spends more than 183 days a year in the US, he will have to pay US tax on his global earnings. Tax which, when it comes to calculating his UK tax bill will just come off that UK tax bill.

    The only major difference will be that if he gets paid to run in the UK (ie, London Marathon) as a non-UK resident he’ll be charged a 25% with holding tax by the UK on those earnings. Something that might well make his tax position worse, not better.

  17. Sparky

    £25k is the average salary.

  18. Sparky

    In other words, the less you have, you less you want to keep. That is what you’ve just said, isn’t it? A person who earns £10k a year is less interested in keeping it than someone who earns a £1m. Can you not see you absurdity of that logic?

  19. Jason Smith The fact that Mo Farah escaped Mogadishu as Somalia descended into Chaos is often played up. The UK by virtue of his father did provide him sanctuary at the age of 8. That being said the issue is not so much his tax evasion which is annoying it’s the fact that he has campaigned and acted with moral authority that others who do this are wrong. Then he does it himself. Hypocrite those in glass houses

  20. Jason Smith

    Eh idiot. Original Olympiads were armature competitors who had other careers. Since becoming more professional and expanding the sports represented that’s when it became snobby, private school students are overwhelming overrepresented as Olympiads as a lot of money is required to compete.

  21. robertcp

    It does not help debate to refer to people as idiots. The fact that it costs a lot of money to compete means that it is even more important for elite sport to be professional. Amateur sports were often dominated by athletes from Communist countries who did nothing but train even if they were not on steroids.
    The snobbishness I was referring to also concerned cricket where there was a division between professional (usually state school) and amateur (usually private school) until the early 1960s. Rugby split into two codes because working class men wanted to be paid expenses but this was rejected by mainly private school amateurs. Rugby union is still a very middle class sport in most countries even after being professional for almost twenty years.

  22. Jason Smith

    Welcome to the Internet you get insulted.

  23. Boston_scoundrel

    And you were doing so well until your slightly silly rant about “the left” (whatever that means) championing mediocrity

  24. Mark Law

    The real issue about the London 2012 Olympic Games is not this.
    MF is moving to get himself the best training facilities and is paying taxes in Oregon as the tax residency rules require. If he and his family are consuming public services there, then local Oregon folks would be annoyed if he didn’t contribute (imagine it the other way around!).
    The REAL issue is the way a LABOUR Govt structured the project with PUBLIC money to enrich a few private individuals and create a vanity legacy project for a few politicians.
    The LABOUR Govt created LOCOG – a PRIVATE company. LOCOG “worked closely” (HA!) with the PUBLICALLY-funded Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), responsible for construction of venues and infrastructure. Taxpayer GUARANTEED.
    They APPOINTED the usual cronies onto the “Board” (*look up*) and paid them £6-figure salaries.
    Tory “Lord” Coe made £8m est. out of the deal. THAT’S the scandal.
    Even the CEO conceded that the sporting legacy had faile

  25. Lee Hyde

    Not to mention the taxpayer owned and funded athletics venues AND the absurdly expensive and taxpayer funded London 2012 Olympics at which Farah made his name from which earns (in as much as commercial endorsements can be ‘earned’) a sizable chunk of his income.

    I don’t begrudge Mr. Farah any of the taxpayer funded services that we take for granted (e.g. libraries, education, the NHS, etc…), regardless of weather he or his father were asylum seekers, legitimate economic migrants or native born. I don’t even begrudge him the numerous specialist services (outside of the star-stuck jingoism, how many Britons are true athletics fans? How many are Athletes?!) that helped to mold him into the cash cow athlete he is today (note: his twin brother wasn’t so lucky). However, it does seem that of the athletes and artists who most loudly bemoan cuts to arts and sports funding, many resort rather too readily to off-shoring in order to avoid paying for them. Maybe they’d prefer fewer independent movies, fewerfree art galleries and museums and fees charged at all local authority athletics tracks? Their actions seem to suggest so, even if their endless moaning doesn’t!

    Of course, in Mr Farah’s case, it does seem to be the case that he’s genuinely changed residence/quit the UK. Even so, dual taxation rules should prevent any onerous tax liabilities (i.e. he won’t be double taxed) and it is a shame that he (or his accountant) should begrudge the nation that give him his start and invested in his career, even the meagre crumbs (if any) that would escape the US taxman. I guess that the next Mo Farah will need to get a Sunday job in SportsDirect and/or run bare footed.

  26. Lee Hyde

    Median is ~ £28,000pa; mean average is £~19,000pa. At least, last time I checked. Heavily skewed by London/SE salaries of course; £25,000pa may well seem a lot to someone living up North (or West for that matter) or in the lower percentiles of earnings.

  27. Lee Hyde

    That there is a logical fallacy. @iriscot made no reference at all to low earners and their attitudes to tax. Maybe (s)he thinks there’s a sweet sport, where earners are perfectly happy with their earnings/tax, above and below which folk would rather hang on to more. Now that too could be argued against, but you’ll probably want to brush up on logic yourself, before logic-checking others.

  28. Lee Hyde

    The parasitic state that paid for the athletics venues at which Farah first trained and competed? The same parasitic state that funded the London 2012 Olympics, where Farah made his name from which he ‘earns’ the bulk of his income (mostly endorsements?)? That parasitic state?

    The state is as much a ‘parasite’ to Mo Farah as ITV is to Jonathon Ross, the BBC is to Graham Norton and Mo Farah is to his various commercial sponsors and their productive employees. More of a symbiont rather than a parasite really.

  29. IAN

    lets ditch this myth that Mo Farah needs world class facilities or something different to whats available in the UK. He spends 99% of his time running on a road or dirt tracks in park land.Theres plenty of then in the UK last time i looked.just watch his training videos. As for other facilities, living in the UK doesn’t seem to deter our other 28 gold medalists, we seem to be doing O.K. just ask Sheffield based Jessica Ennis. If Mo prefers to live in the USA good luck to him, his choice ,but can he spare us the lectures on how to live. The latest was his rant at Barclays on money transfers to Somalia. On his earnings he could set up his own company and provide the same service. not holding my breathe on that one. He needs to keep his head down , keep running around in circles (because thats all he does for his money), look after his family and be quiet or continue his current path of being too public and inviting comment .

  30. Daniel Burke

    You mean “British”, If just arriving here and being born here can be British, then I can go to Japan and become Japanese.

  31. david

    The fact is that Mo got to the level he is now at because for years whilst his attitude and his performances were nowhere near world class he received funding from the Lottery, this allowed him to continue to train full time as an athlete when he was finishing way down the field and was very much an ‘also ran’. Farah is a nobody in the US and is not marketable there, he makes his money here as the face of British advertising campaigns, and British events…. he should pay his way.

  32. Ben

    This is quite terrible journalism – Farah effectively lives in the US with his family and this is his primary residence. He is only really in the UK for competitions. Who else in such circumstances would continue to pay UK tax and this applies across the wealth spectrum? The author obviously has something against Mr. Farah as this is a rediculous attack! Poor, poor journalism.

  33. Cyclops

    No. He was born in Somalia and left there to join his deadbeat dad in the UK when he was 8.

  34. Matthew Blott

    What a cock you are.

  35. Robyn Free

    I fail to see how any grown up person thinks that running or being an athlete is actually a ‘job’ rather than what it is – a self indulgence. When is he going to grow up and do some real work and earn some real money not just money that comes from advertising and endorsements. No wonder the world is in such a parlous state if we tell boys and girls that being a good runner or a good footballer or taking your clothes off for money is something worthy of ambition and accolades.

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