Warning to Olympic Winners: The Taxman Cometh

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has prepared its own special welcome for participants in next month's Olympic Games - a special unit has been set up to claim its share of any Olympic earnings.

ATO Olympics project director Peter Rowe told Agence France Presse that any money earned by winning competitors would be taxed in Australia, regardless of where the money was paid. Earnings from media interviews, for example, would be caught in the tax net.

"If the race takes place in Australia, regardless of where the contract might be entered into, or in fact even where payment is made ... it is the income derived from that performance in Australia which gives rise to the tax liability in Australia," Rowe said.

"This is not a revenue-raising exercise on behalf of the tax office. This is an exercise in ensuring that people understand what rights they have and what obligations they may need to meet."

Foreign media and athletes likely to earn money at the Olympics are being asked to register for an Australian Business Number, but there were advantages, the official revealed. Some Olympics participants will be entitled to refunds of Goods and Services Tax (GST). The ATO wanted to ensure those people received their refunds "speedily and accurately", he said.

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