Swedish Authorities Scour Social Media for Poker Tax Evaders

October 10th, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
Swedish poker tax for pros

Swedish tax authorities are cracking down on poker tax-evader players who are avoiding reporting their winnings. (Image: sthlm.daniel-reed.eu)

If you’re a poker tax evader in Sweden, listen up: you could be on a Wanted List in the Skandie country.

The Swedish tax authority, known as Skatteverket, is searching for information on poker players who have collected big winnings on overseas sites, but haven’t been paying taxes on that money. According to a report from Radio Sweden, in many cases officials have found out that Swedish players have won large sums, but they aren’t sure exactly who those players are.

“I am pretty certain that this is the first time that we have used the possibility of trying to get information about not yet identified people,” said Dag Hardyson, an Internet specialist who works with the Swedish tax agency. “And we have been getting excellent information from tax havens. This really has paid off.”

Online Boasts Used to Establish Winnings

Hardyson and other officials have apparently been finding information about large poker wins on websites and forums where poker players talk about the game. Of course, the players on these forums typically use screen names, and many of them remain private about their real identities.

But by reaching out to officials in some international tax havens, the agency has been able to identify several gamblers who scored big through poker. They’ve identified about 250 million Krona ($34.76 million) that has been won by about 250 Swedish online gamblers since 2012.

“We are talking about people who are well established in society, many of them are professional gamblers,” Hardyson said. “Many of the people involved are professional poker players.”

Among this group were reportedly about 50 players who had been playing on websites located outside the European Union and that do not hold any form of license in Europe. Swedish law requires poker players to declare all winnings from such sites, though they do not have to do so for play on sites that are operating with a license in the EU.

“These people will now be asked to pay taxes and fines for millions of Swedish Kronor,” said Unibet Poker ambassador Dan Glimme in Aftonbladet, a Swedish newspaper.

Investigations Ongoing Since 2006

While the latest crackdown shows that the Skatteverket has been getting much better at finding players through the use of resources like poker forums and databases that track winnings, this is hardly the first time the group has tried to track down the taxable online winnings of Swedish players. Operations have been ongoing since 2006, and at times, there have been some very notable targets of their investigations.

In early 2011, rumors swirled that Viktor Blom, better known as “Isildur1,” was under investigation for winnings obtained while playing at the nosebleed tables on Full Tilt Poker. At the time, Hardyson wouldn’t comment on whether the rumors were true, though he did note that Full Tilt was not an EU-licensed site and that he was well aware of who Blom was.

“It’s like going to a sports editor and asking if they know about Zlatan,” Hardyson said, referring to Swedish soccer legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Reportedly, poker winnings made on sites outside of the EU or European Economic Area are meant to be taxed at a 30 percent rate. However, every individual pot is considered a taxable event, which can lead to some hefty tax bills: for instance, it was said that Blom might owe $150 million from his play on Full Tilt, based on a strict interpretation of Swedish tax law.

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