Tebas: Tax hike the last straw for league

MADRID - Government plans to raise taxes for top-earning foreigners are the "last straw" for Spain's professional football league (LFP), league vice president Javier Tebas said on Wednesday.

Instead of raising taxes for foreigners who earn more than 600,000 euros to 43 percent from 24 percent, the government should be cutting income levies for Spanish athletes instead, Tebas said at a forum at the Pedro Ferrandiz Foundation in Madrid.

"The problem is not that foreigners pay the same as the Spanish, the problem is that Spanish athletes, who have a short career, have to pay these outrageous sums," Tebas said.

"Equality has to be sought by bringing taxes down not putting them up."

The LFP last week decided not to carry out a threat of strike action over the tax hike and instead set up a commission and called for dialogue with Spain's Socialist government.

The new measure, which needs parliamentary approval and will take effect at the beginning of next year, modifies the so-called "Beckham Law" named after the England midfielder and former Real Madrid player which has split Spanish football.

Some clubs, coaches, players and the LFP argue they will discourage foreign players from coming to la Liga or make it impossible for clubs to afford them and others say everyone should be treated equally by the tax authorities.

The "Beckham Law" was approved in 2002 to make hiring foreign high-earners easier and Spain more attractive to the highly qualified or skilled.

"We are turning Spanish athletes into tax exiles, like (Formula One driver) Fernando Alonso and (tennis player) Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who change their residence to avoid paying so much tax," Tebas said.

"The government is taking very important decisions which affect professional soccer and is not consulting us."

The new rules are not retroactive and will not affect players who have already signed contracts with Spanish clubs such as Real's Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka or Barcelona's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi.