Boxer Brækhus fights the taxman

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UPDATED: Norwegian world champion boxer Cecilia Brækhus is not one to shy away from a fight, and then the tax authorities in her native Norway entered her ring. They claimed her income is subject to Norwegian tax, even though she moved to Berlin four years ago and can’t even pursue her sport in her homeland because of Norway’s ban on professional boxing.

Cecilia Brækhus appeared on the popular Scandinavian talk show “Skavlan” right after her victory, but there was no talk of her tax battle then. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

“It’s really funny that they want to have my earnings, even though I can’t box here,” Brækhus told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) a recent trip to Oslo to meet potential sponsors and business partners. “It’s a real paradox.”

The tax authorities’ interest in Brækhus is also linked to her sudden emergence as a magnet for many sponsors who are sending lucrative offers her way. A professor of marketing at a business college in Bergen, Brækhus’ hometown, told newspaper Bergens Tidende that she’s now one of the “hottest” sponsor objects among Norwegian female athletes.

Brækhus, age 31, recently won international acclaim when she beat rival Anne-Sophie Mathis of France and confirmed her position as the undefeated World Champion in Welterweight in four major professional boxing organizations. She’s now ranked second in the world among female boxers and also is a former kickboxing champion.

She grew up in Bergen but moved to Berlin in 2008 to pursue her sport since pro-boxing is illegal in Norway. She’s lived there ever since, but now the Norwegian tax authorities have been laying claim to more than NOK 200,000 in taxes, claiming she still has tax obligations to Norway because of technical details in the law regulating emigration. It contends that Norwegians still owe taxes to Norway for three years after reporting their move and only cease having a tax obligation at that point if they have spent no more than 61 days physically present in Norway and have no home in Norway.

They wouldn’t comment on Brækhus’ case, nor would officials in the Finance Ministry or the new Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik, who officially congratulated Brækhus on her victory over Mathis. Brakhus, meanwhile, is fighting the state’s tax claims and the conflict reportedly was nearing a solution after DN publicized it.

“The tax authorities contend that I can’t prove I have lived in Germany for the past five years and want full taxes on all my earnings,” she told DN. It’s only now that the tax claims are becoming substantial, because of all the new sponsorships and business contracts Brækhus is attracting.

“We claim that now she has lived outside Norway for so long that she can’t have any tax obligation to Norway,” said Brækhus’ attorney, StianWessel.

Brækhus said she has been paying taxes to both Germany and Norway, and thinks she already has paid too much. “This is a real hell,” she said, adding that she’s being forced to formally emigrate from Norway and legally become a German.

She called the tax conflict “the only thing” marring her happiness right now, after confirming her world championships.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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