By: Paul Hewson
If you've been following the World Series of Poker for a while, you may have noticed that the vast majority of players are from the United States. That makes sense; the WSOP is based in Las Vegas, after all. But this is the World Series we're talking about here. It could use some more international flavour. Of the 1,245 bracelets handed out over the years, 979 went to American players. Canada is in second place with 52 bracelets.
Again, perfectly understandable – the US has 10 times as many people as Canada. But there are other reasons for this global disparity, many of them having to do with taxes. If you're a non-American who's thinking about playing at this year's World Series, here are three tips to help you navigate the waters and make your experience as smooth as possible.
1.Understand Your Country's Tax Policy
Different countries have different approaches when it comes to taxing poker players. The United Kingdom, France and Italy don't even bother. Canada and Australia only tax players who are “carrying on a business of gambling,” which has to be proven first and doesn't automatically kick in at a set income threshold. If you're from Norway (like 2014 Main Event runner-up Felix Stephensen) or Denmark (like 2008 champ Peter Eastgate), be prepared to pay up, big-time.
2. Understand Your Country's Tax Treaty With the US
If you win $5,000 or more playing at the WSOP (or at any of the casinos in Vegas), you might find yourself about 30% short when you get paid. That's the amount that gets withheld at the Rio for taxes. Many countries have tax treaties with the US to avoid double-taxation, but that 30% will still get taken off the top – you have to apply for a refund. Unless you're from a list of countries including most of Europe, and Japan. Get an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you don't have one already. The Rio can issue one to you, as well.
3. Know Your Stakers
If you've been staked to play at the WSOP, that adds another layer of complexity to your tax situation. You'll need to provide certain tax forms to your backers – get these filled out and returned to you before you pay anyone back. You'll need different forms depending on whether your backers are American or not. If they're from outside of the US, you'll also need to include your ITIN and explain on the forms why no taxes are being withheld. Among other things. Do your research, consult the tax experts where required, and good luck at the tables