Belgium to Super Tax Top Professional Poker Players

October 6th, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
Belgium poker player tax hike

Belgium may require professional poker players to pay income taxes on their winnings. (Image: hereisthecity.com)

Belgium’s professional poker players may soon face some rather harsh taxes, with rates of up to 75 percent being levied against their winnings for top-tier players.

According to a report from tijd.be, an online financial portal in Belgium, a new interpretation on how taxes are calculated for players deemed to be professionals could result in some huge tax bills for a small number of full-time poker pros in the European nation.

The legal rationale for such a change would be similar to that used in some other nations. While in some places (such as the United States) gambling winnings are always taxed, and in some jurisdictions, gambling winnings are never subject to taxation, still others use a two-tiered approach.

Under these systems, true gambling winnings aren’t taxed, since they are gained through sheer luck. However, a professional who makes their living through poker or another gambling outlet is earning their money, thus making it taxable like any other income.

“An individual who plays poker regularly and who devotes enough time and efforts to the game to make it a profession should declare his winnings as if they were any other form of professional income,” LaLibre.be reported Belgian officials as saying.

Very Few Players Affected

However, the situation may not be quite as dire as it sounds. According to Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), the public broadcasting company for Belgium’s French-speaking region, even if this change does come to be enforced, it will likely only impact about 20 players in the country.

“All these players have been recently asked by the national authorities to report their winnings as professional income,” RTBF reported.

The most successful of these players could see income in the highest tax bracket taxed at a rate of 75 percent. At the same time, players would be able to deduct many of the costs of being a professional poker player as business expenses.

History of Harsh Regulations

Such a move would be just the latest strict control imposed on poker players in Belgium. The Belgian Gambling Commission has operated one of the strictest blacklists in the online gambling industry, forcing ISPs to block access to many unlicensed sites in favor of the small number of regulated sites operating in the country. When players continued to make efforts to get around such restrictions, the BGC said that they might start prosecuting players as well as operators.

Just this week, the BGC has found a new target: free poker games available on mobile devices. These games, and similar apps that offer access to casino games, do not verify the ages of players, and the Gambling Commission seems to be worried that this could allow minors access to paid services.

While the games themselves do not require players to pay money, they do often allow players to make purchases within the games for extra chips or other perks. This is apparently enough for the BGC to want to blacklist any such apps that do not offer age verification tools. Some believe that such a move would go beyond the BGC’s regulatory mandate, as the Commission is only responsible for regulating activities that fall under the Games of Chance Act, which only applies to games with stakes.

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