|Tuesday, April 9
Updated: April 10, 12:52 PM ET
Paradise found: the ultimate tax shelter
By Darren Rovell
While Americans across the country gather together their W-2s and 1099s, then begin wading through piles of receipts with confusing notes scribbled on the side, more than 30 professional tennis players aren't stressing the annual approach of April 15. They have found the ultimate tax deduction by making their homes in a fiscal paradise free of income taxes.
Not coincidentally, it also has been the home of the ATP's European office since 1990.
Three more ATP players make their home in Andorra, a country about twice the size of the District of Columbia that is nestled in the mountains between France and Spain, and Patrick Rafter resides in Bermuda, the Disneyland-sized British territorial island that rests off the coast of North Carolina. Like Monaco, both are popular tourist stops and havens for wealthy athletes seeking tax relief.
"You can be walking on the street and you'll sometimes see other players that live there," said Dominik Hrbaty, a resident of Monaco and the world's 50th ranked men's tennis player. "Especially if you have the same appetite (in restaurants)."
But these fiscal paradises aren't as attractive to professional athletes as they once were. With taxes now routinely deducted from tournament winnings, as much as 30 percent in the United States, these tiny, tax-free refuges are anything but utopia. The cost of living in these luxury resort areas, in fact, can be downright taxing on the players' pocketbooks, on par with the ritziest sections of Manhattan and San Francisco.
Plewes said Monaco is more suitable to those players who earn more than $1 million a year on the tour and pull in more money with endorsements.
Getting the tax break also has its sacrifices. To establish residency, players are required to make more than token appearances in the country's they call home. How much time they must spend there is dependent on the rules of their country of origin.
"When I finish a tournament I have to go there and can't really go back to Slovakia," laments Hrbaty, who has been living in Monaco for the past five years. Hrbaty will be on his home turf next week when the tour stops in Monte Carlo. Two years ago, Hrbaty reached the finals at Monte Carlo, but lost to Cedric Pioline.
The real break for professional athletes comes if they earn significant endorsement income, specifically those deals negotiated in Monaco. It's a subtle distinction that doesn't go unnoticed by governments around the world.
German-born Boris Becker, a three-time champion at Wimbledon and a French Open title shy of completing tennis' Grand Slam, claimed Monacan residency from 1985 to 1993 and said his numerous endorsement deals were done in Monte Carlo. The German govenment disputes the claims and says Becker owes it some $10.3 million in back taxes, fines and interest on earnings.
None of the professional tennis players who call Monaco home are from the U.S., Plewes said. To do so would require renouncing their U.S. citizenship, she said.
But there are perks for those who do make their home there. There's 300 days of sunshine per year and professional tennis players are given free membership to the exclusive Monte Carlo Country Club, which has 40 courts, and all the medical care and massages they could want.
"You have everything in one place," Hrbaty said. "If you have to go somewhere else, it takes away from your practice time. It's a big advantage."
Sunny Florida melts away chill of state income taxes
Many ATP members, including Todd Martin and Michael Russell, call their home in Florida, a state that has no income tax.
Two well-known Italian companies teamed up and the fruits of a new licensing agreement between Fila and Ferrari hit shelves two weeks ago. The shoe company is now making Ferrari-branded apparel and accessories with the car-makers familiar horse logo. It also is selling a Ferrari shoe for $109. "Fila and Ferrari share many similar values," said Howe Burch, Fila's senior vice president of sports marketing. "We're both about creativity, innovation, performance and speed."
Footaction has the exclusive rights to sell the gear and shoes in stores through September. To promote the shoe, pit crew members of Formula One driver Michael Schumacher's race team, which is sponsored by Ferrari, will wear the shoes during races. Jennifer Capriati also will wear the co-branded items.
Recently, Capriati was warned by the Women's Tennis Association about wearing the Ferrari logo on her shirt in place of the WTA Sanex patch at the NASDAQ-100 Open.
The latest poll on Playboy.com, which asked online participants to vote for the sexiest golfer on the LPGA Tour, also could go nowhere for the publication. Winner Carin Koch, who is married and has a 3-year old son, immediately declined. Runner-up Jill McGill was interested enough to begin negotiations with the magazine, but things have fizzled since one of her main sponsors told her she couldn't pose nude, McGill's agent Jeff Chilcoat said.
The most notable athletes who have accepted Playboy's offer to pose for the magazine include volleyball star Gabrielle Reece and ice skater Katerina Witt.
The Los Angeles Lakers will wear old-school Minneapolis Lakers jerseys when they take on the Timberwolves on Thursday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Lakers' 1951-52 NBA championship team. The jerseys will be worn for the one game, but fans can buy the Nike-made jersey and shorts on NBA.com or the NBA store for $69.99.
"One game does not have a significant impact on overall merchandise sales," said Salvatore LaRocca, senior vice president of the NBA's global merchandising group. "A retro game allows us to celebrate the history of the game and trace the lineage of the franchises."
The game-used jerseys will be signed and then auctioned off on Yahoo! following the game.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org