US Ryder Cup players may face tax demands


SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – It’s the one event in which the game’s top golfers compete for something other than prize money, but if pride and flag serve as sufficient motivation at a Ryder Cup, this year’s matches could be imperiled by tax demands imposed on U.S. players by the British government.

Although officials at both the PGA of America and the European Tour are downplaying the matter, U.K. law stipulates that non-citizens who perform on British soil are required to pay taxes on income generated by commercial endorsements. As it relates to the U.S. Ryder Cup team, that could amount to about $200 million (annually) if Tiger Woods is added to the squad by captain Corey Pavin.

From there, the situation is defined by gray shades of irony. Ryder Cup contestants are not compensated for their services, nor are they allowed to wear attire or use a golf bag that promotes a commercial sponsor.

“Our initial read is, the players forego big endorsement contracts to wear the U.S. flag and European flag that week,” said PGA of America CEO Joe Steranka. “They aren’t compensated by those [companies] during the week, and it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Still, the matter remains unsettled, although a source told Golf Channel, “the European Tour has made more headway [on an exemption] than is publicly known.” A logical solution would be for the PGA to pay the tax on behalf of the players, a total that sources have estimated would fall between $1 million and $3.5 million.

Obviously, the PGA would prefer a waiver from the British government, which has granted an exemption to athletes competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics. To that end, Steranka is counting on his European counterparts to resolve the dilemma. “I have no concerns,” he added. “If I was concerned, we’d be working on it more intently.”