By Jonny Long
Riders and cycling teams are set to be affected by tax reform in Belgium, as the government looks to raise revenues by changing athletes' social security contributions.
Currently, the social security contributions (NSSO) of top athletes are calculated on a fictitious gross salary of €2,352 and the government calculates that the planned changes will raise an additional €43 million.
WorldTour outfits Lotto-Soudal and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, as well as Alpecin-Fenix, are set to be hit hardest by the reforms as they pay higher wages compared to other Belgian teams such as Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise and Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles. Meanwhile, Deceuninck - Quick-Step won't be affected as they're based in Luxembourg despite having their main office in Wevelgem.
As for riders, Belgian stars such as Philippe Gilbert, Jasper Stuyven and Tim Wellens will escape the changes as they live in Monaco, while Dutch nationals Tom Dumoulin and Mathieu van der Poel will be amongst the hardest hit as they both live in Belgium.
The Belgian Cycling Federation has met with government finance minister Vincent Van Peteghem before holding further talks with another minister called Frank Vandenbroucke about the reforms, the federation being the official employer of all professional cyclists who reside in the country.
Jos Smets, who has represented the federation during these talks, told Het Laatste Nieuws the impact on cycling will be a drop in the ocean compared to how the changes will affect the country's footballers and football teams.
"The total wage bill in cycling is about 14 million," Smet said. "That's ten to fifteen times less than in football, I estimate."
Rather than rail against the reforms, Smets says well-off sports stars should have to contribute more in social security payments.
"The situation as it was now in sports was socially unacceptable," Smet argued. "We don't want to undermine the principle that the more you earn, the more you have to pay. The situation as it was now in sport was socially unacceptable."
Athletes will still pay less tax than a normal employee on the same salary in the new system, due to the government's understanding that sporting careers are much shorter than regular ones.
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