Wimbledon champion Kvitová faces storm over Monaco tax haven

Petra Kvitová, photo: CTK

She won the Wimbledon tennis singles title for the second time just one week ago. But now the Czech tennis star and current world number 4 Petra Kvitová is facing criticism for an alleged lack of patriotism stemming from the fact that for tax purposes, she is registered as a resident of the tiny southern European principality of Monaco.

Petra Kvitová,  photo: CTK
Last Saturday, the 24-year-old Petra Kvitová beat the Canadian newcomer Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets to take the Wimbledon title for the second time in her career. But the glow of that victory has been somewhat dampened following a demand by Social Democrat MP Stanislav Huml that the player, who has listed Monaco as her place of residence for the purposes of avoiding income taxes, should be stripped of her Czech citizenship.

Here is Huml explaining to Radio Impuls the Facebook comments he made that sparked off the storm:

“I think that we should all have a long and hard think about the fact that if someone leaves the Czech Republic and becomes a member of another state, then they should lose their Czech citizenship. Because I don’t know that the few percent less in taxes that she stands to pay in a country like Monaco deflects from the fact that perhaps the Czech Republic actually helped her achieve some of her success.”

Such is the populist take being heard by several left-of-centre Czech politicians. They argue that using tax shelters is essentially a slap in the face for the investment that a country such as the Czech Republic has made in one of its citizens. The Czech Republic has a 22 percent income tax rate for its wealthiest citizens – Monaco’s rate is zero. Czech law mandates that taxes can be avoided if a citizen sets up residency in another country and spends more than half a year living at that location. So should Petra Kvitová actually be playing for Monaco?

Stanislav Huml,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
Ivo Kaderka, president of the Czech Tennis Association was quick to join a chorus of countering views coming to the players’ defence. He told reporters that Czech society was not only adept at questioning success, but was now going so far as to punish it. Others have pointed out that Kvitová serves as an ambassador for her country, and is by far not the only transgressor with regards to tax avoidance – many Czech tennis stars, including Radek Štepánek, Tomáš Berdych and Lucie Šafářová make use of tax havens as well, either based in Monte Carlo or Monaco. Indeed, Monaco has become something of a tax haven for many of the world’s tennis stars.

So is it a storm in a teacup or a major issue? I hit the streets of Prague to gauge the opinions of ordinary Czechs:

Does it bother you that Petra Kvitová doesn’t pay taxes in the Czech Republic – that she pays them in Monaco?

Man 1: “No, it does not bother me. I think that if a state has such high taxes that successful sportsperson has to move to another country, then it is the fault of the state, not the sports player.”

Man 2: “No. Because it is her business.”

Do you think she should play for Monaco instead of representing the Czech Republic?

Man 2: “No. She plays for us, and it is up to her to decide where she wants to pay her taxes. If the taxes are high here, it is her choice to pay taxes somewhere else.”

Woman 1: “I really don’t have an opinion. I don’t care.”

Petra Kvitová,  photo: CTK
Man 3: “I don’t mind.”

And you don’t think she should now play for Monaco instead?

Man 3: “No, I don’t think so. I think it is her choice.”

Woman 2: “I think it is her business and her life and her decision.”

Some people have said she is the Czech Republic has invested in her via an education, and now she is avoiding that.

Man 3: “She pays back via her tennis results, or something. She doesn’t have to just pay back with money. So I don’t have a problem with it personally.”